Eric Bana has been away from movie screens for a minute, depriving them of his commanding frame and mounting concern. Appropriately enough, in “The Dry” he plays a Melbourne cop, Aaron Falk, who visits his evocatively dusty hometown years after fleeing tragedy. In Robert Connolly’s adaptation of Jane Harper’s crime best seller, Aaron gets embroiled in investigating new killings and old traumas.
The gruesome murders of a high school friend and most of his family are what bring Aaron to town for the funeral service. But some still harbor grudges against him over the death of another friend from adolescence, Ellie (BeBe Bettencourt), who drowned under whitewashed circumstances years ago. Aaron’s former neighbors project their twinkly curiosity and simmering resentments about all this onto him.
Lending a hand to a sheepish local cop (Keir O’Donnell), Aaron makes his gently firm rounds. The investigation is a tad leisurely, its momentum sapped by flashbacks to the drowning and related intrigue and puppy love. So the pleasure (as in countless TV crime shows) lies in fact-finding visits with friends and strangers: a very fond pal from the old gang, Gretchen (Genevieve O’Reilly), a rumpled principal (John Polson), a bumptious suspect (Matt Nable). Special mention: the local cop’s no-nonsense wife (Miranda Tapsell).
The many red herrings and the dark-secret finale recall the reliable, compulsive appeal of a page-turner, although the tensions don’t always feel fully translated to the rhythms and demands of a film. But Bana might just be set to responsibly sort through more messy crimes: “The Dry” was only the first in Harper’s series of Aaron Falk stories.
Rated R for murders, non-murder death, and understandably heated language. Running time: 1 hour 57 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.