As Aaron drives down the sun-bleached and drought-plagued streets of his old hometown of Kiewarra, Australia, so many things fill his head. So many unwanted things. But he has to be here. Luke, a man who used to be his best friend, is dead. And Aaron feels compelled to attend the funeral.
Thing is, this isn’t some pleasant gathering where people sit and share nice thoughts about lost loved ones. That’s because Luke is accused of killing his wife and child before taking his own life.
Luke’s parents don’t believe that he’s guilty of that atrocity, of course. They want to believe some completely different crime took place. And that’s another reason Aaron felt so compelled to leave Melbourne and travel down here. Since he’s an Australian Federal Police officer, Luke’s parents all but begged him to attend the funeral. And after he does so, they implore him to, at the very least, “look into the books” before he leaves.
Aaron agrees to do so, but reluctantly. The fact is, he’s pretty much a hated individual here in Kiewarra. Twenty years earlier, a girl he was romantically involved with was found dead in a nearby river—a riverbed that’s all dried up and turned to barren, cracked dirt these days—and every drunk in town still thinks he was involved. He and Luke, that is.
Fact is, lies were told twenty years ago. And as Aaron pokes around a little—asking a few questions, listening to a few conversations—he starts to realize that a number of lies have been told since.
Now Aaron just needs to figure out if he’s got the intestinal fortitude to stick around and find out the truth—the truth behind all those past lies and the truth behind all the terrible things that are happening right now.
We learn that Aaron lied as a teen to give himself an alibi 20 years ago. And even though he wasn’t guilty of any larger wrong, he still feels guilty. But rather than run from that guilt, he decides to push through and do what he can to right any past wrongs and to help resolve the current terrible events. Thanks to his slow, stoic efforts, and with the help of a local police officer, he eventually uncovers the facts behind two murders.
Aaron and Officer Raco both put their lives on the line to save a school full of vulnerable children.
Luke’s funeral takes place in a small local church. And the pastor invites those attending to “pray together in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Aaron accidentally finds out that Luke had been having an affair outside his marriage, and that he and the woman had a child together. During some flashback scenes, a group of four teens (including Aaron and Luke) go to a local river to cool down from the heat. They strip down to their underwear and jump in—the boys, bare-chested with shorts, and the girls in tank tops and underwear. The teens also kiss and make out on a couple different occasions.
In the present, Aaron meets up with Gretchen, one of the young women in the flashback. They kiss briefly.
Two local men admit to having a hidden gay affair.
We see the nasty aftermath of a murder scene (dead bodies and bloody walls). And later, we watch as the actual murder is played out as someone shoots several people at close range with a shotgun. Splashes of blood spatter walls and the ground. And we see the victims with red, open wounds on their chest and back. (One of the victims is a young child, but the camera is positioned so that we never see the boy get shot, or his body afterward.)
A man pours gasoline all over himself and sets himself on fire. Others rush in to help put him out, and they catch fire, too. We later see heavily bandaged victims.
Several men in a bar fight end up bloody and gashed after pummeling each other brutally. The camera watches closely as one bloodied combatant has his forehead stitched up.
A young teen is pulled out of the water after drowning. We later hear her diary entries read out loud; they record her confessions of wanting to escape the physical and sexual abuse that she had long endured at the hands of someone close to her.
There are more than 20 f-words and a handful of s-words in the dialogue, along with multiple uses each of “d–khead,” “a–” and the British crudity “bloody.” Jesus’ name is misused three times.
The small hotel where Aaron is staying is connected to a bar; we see many of the locals drinking beer and other boozy concoctions there on a regular basis. Some people drink heavily at times and begin arguing loudly. That turns into a drunken brawl on one occasion. Aaron and Gretchen drink wine together on a couple occasions, including once at dinner.
As teens, Aaron and Luke agree to lie for each other in order to give themselves an alibi for their whereabouts on the night that a girl drowns in the river. Someone tells a story about boys urinating on her school books. Aaron drinks several beers while talking with a local school principal.
Someone notes that “when you’ve been lying about something for so long, it becomes second nature.” And we see that statement borne out in several people.
Thanks to star Eric Bana’s solid, furrowed-brow performance, there’s a very compelling murder mystery (two, actually) that claws its way up through The Dry’s sunbaked and cracked red soil. As Bana’s detective laconically digs up a murder’s details, bringing light to stark truths, you can’t help but watch intently with a parched throat and sweaty brow yourself.
That said, this R-rated tale of bad deeds and corrupt human failings certainly isn’t an easy one to sit and swelter through. It’s gritty, foul mouthed and at times violently bloody.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.