The Dry 2 is anything but. The perpetual damp of Victoria’s Otway Ranges and Dandenong rainforests makes for breathtaking Australian scenery but renders the life of the redoubtable detective Aaron Falk tougher than it already is.

The long-awaited sequel to The Dry, the smash-hit adaptation of Jane Harper’s first novel about federal investigator Falk (Eric Bana), will attract those who relished the original story of Falk’s return to his home town where he reconnected with the past to solve a decades-old murder.

Force of Nature looks magnificent and the sense of place from the location cinematography sets up an appropriate atmosphere of foreboding as Falk takes a panicked, broken call from Alice Russell (Anna Torv), who is one of his key informants. She is on a corporate getaway that includes younger colleagues and the boss’s wife, Jill Bailey (Deborra-Lee Furness). The group becomes lost and when they emerge, Alice is no longer with them.

We learn from Falk that Alice was caught borrowing money that was not hers, which gave him the leverage to recruit her as a whistleblower against her fraudulent boss, Daniel Bailey (Richard Roxburgh). Falk had been pressuring Alice to take risks and he fears it triggered reprisals.

It is a promising set-up with a likely murder at its core, and Bana and Torv are good actors who give it their best. But what a mess it is. Harper’s story is overly fussy and here we have three threads running in parallel: the real-time search for Alice, what transpired on some of the trek, and Falk’s flashbacks to the childhood trauma of losing his mother in the bushland. The accidental discovery of the den of a serial killer is a morbid embellishment that only adds to the confusion.

Director Robert Connolly, the experienced filmmaker who made The Dry, uses distracting, choppy edits that leap from one situation to another time and place before we have a chance to engage. It drains the film of dramatic tension because just as we find our feet, we lose them again.  Which is a shame, because actors Jacqueline McKenzie (Palm Beach, Bloom), as Falk’s sidekick Carmen Cooper, and Sisi Stringer (Mortal Kombat), as Beth, work hard to bring substance to their scenes.

Harper is the queen of the rural noir literary craze and she succeeded because readers were moved by Falk’s personal history while his adventures turned the page. Here, Falk appears emotionally removed and the lost-mother storyline a failed attempt to humanise him as he closes the net around Daniel Bailey, a one-dimensional baddie. By the time we get to who might want to kill Alice, there are so many candidates it is hard to care.

In one piece of silliness that was an insult to the audience, Falk emerges soaking wet but otherwise untroubled after plunging down a torrential waterfall which we were told earlier by the Indigenous ranger no one could possibly survive. Not bad for an accountant.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is in cinemas now.

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