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Royal Hotel, The


Stars: Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Hugo Weaving, Kate Cheel, James Frecheville, Daniel Henshall, Adam Morgan

Director: Kitty Green

An OK, no-frills, perils-of-the-Outback, gritty Aussie drama. Canadian backpackers Hanna (Garner) and Liv (Game of Thrones alumnus Henwick) take menial (mainly barkeeping) jobs at the Royal Hotel, a ramshackle edifice in the middle of nowhere, to raise some cash.

Run by the permanently inebriated Billy (Weaving) and his much put-upon Aborigine wife (Cheel), it's little more than a glorified boozers' bar for rowdy local workers, one or two of whom stay at the hotel. 'Just for a few weeks', says Liv, 'then we'll be swimming in Bondi'. Some hope.

The place is drowning in debt when it isn't ankle-deep in beer, and the swimming pool's been drained as it's winter. At night, anything goes in the barroom, where a local jack-the-lad (Frecheville) comes on to Hanna, and Liv catches the taciturn eye of big bearded Keith (Morgan). A rather more menacing figure is cut by the latently violent Dolly (Henshall) who looks as if he could be big trouble.

After Billy has an alcohol-induced accident, the owners flee, leaving the girls with a couple of hundred dollars and the tips jar, and at the mercy of the unleashed outbackers. Now where's that axe?...

Director Green knows the film she wants to make and it's very much all of a piece, steadily paced throughout up to the violence of the climax. And the smoky, steamy barroom atmosphere is expertly caught. It's nothing earth-shattering, but doesn't contain many missteps either.

I have dated the film as 2023. but there is no copyright date on the credits.

David Quinlan

Australia 2023. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour (unspecified).
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 30 Oct 2023