Daniel Henshall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying John Bunting in Snowtown.
The film's perspective is from the teenager Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) who, along with his brothers, suffers from sexual harassment, from one of his mother's boyfriends, and Jamie is even raped by his older brother. His mother, as well as Jamie, find a form of justice in their minds through his mother's new boyfriend John played by Henshall. Daniel Henshall work is interesting in that he does not set an alarm initially as he played John as basically an Australian good old boy. Henshall is not excessively charming though he does have a distinctive charisma with his coy smile and gentle banter. He's convincing in his portrayal of the way John worms his way into the family, since all he does is give a nice smile while stating exactly what Jamie and his mother want to hear. Of course what they want to hear which involves a plan to harass the former boyfriend until he leaves the neighborhood. The funny thing though is from the outset John states some more severe plans to handle the situation, though he does it in a most peculiar sort of fashion.
There are a few pseudo town hall scenes where John handles a meeting between the locals as they discuss what should be done with the people they perceive as undesirable. Henshall is brilliant in these scenes as he so warmly encourages the towns' people to speak their minds. Henshall very cleverly inserts the manipulations in John as he constantly pivots off some of the remarks by the other neighbors in order to encourage them to even more extreme measures. What's most chilling about this though is that John gets the people to come up with their own violent ideas. Henshall's realization of John's method is especially off-putting as he presents it in such a friendly way. Henshall does not have John bark at the other neighbors, at least the one who agrees with him, bur rather is just so encouraging with such a gentle touch. He keeps his delivery calm as he adds a few violent ideas to those already presented, or prods someone else to make their idea for an "undesirable" all the more vicious.
John's early endeavors amount to acts of vandalism until the neighbor leaves. These acts though include cutting up Kangeroos to adorn the man's house. John has Jamie help him, and Henshall again is very effective by the strange way he's magnetic. Again it's not something overt, yet his character's sway is never questioned as Henshall projects this amiable dominance over Jamie. As John gets Jamie to go along with it, it's though he's just having the boy work with him on a special project between the two of them. As the film continues so does John's crusade, despite getting the neighbor to leave rather quickly. John's crusade quickly takes an even darker turn as he initiates Jamie further by having him kill a dog, which happens to be John's own dog. The scene is incredibly disturbing as Henshall's work, and Pittaway's makes the scene all too believable. Henshall is especially unnerving as he reveals the true sadism in John.
The film after this point proceeds forward following John with a few accomplices and Jamie as they go about murdering one person after another. The motivation for each becomes thinner, as the details eventually boil down to one torture then killing after another. Now Henshall reveals the true extent of vile nature of John but not in the way you might expect. Henshall does not portray this as John dropping a facade. Instead he is perhaps even more troubling as he instead shows this to only be the man we've always known just a little more unencumbered. Henshall still projects some of that good old boy sentiment, even as he's violently assaulting people. Henshall instead only portrays that intensity, which was always there in his words of encouragement, grows as he essentially gets to do the thing he loves. Henshall depicts in the moments of murder nothing more than an eerie contentment in a man who absolutely enjoys his work. After a certain point the film does become repetitive, though with purpose, as the killings continue. Jamie ends up being the one who changes in this process, while John is a constant though the film begins to focus on him less frequently. Henshall's work still is notable as a dominating presence that constantly reinforces the overwhelming sense of despair. This is fitting given the film ends technically with John still at large, their capture is handled only by a final text. Honestly I feel the closing text undercuts the film slightly in that it does give some form of closure which seems opposed to the intention of the film's final images beforehand. Those images portrays Jamie now lost with the others as John only continues his "work" with no end in sight. Henshall's performance succeeds not as a portrait of a serial killer exactly, but rather as the crux in the progression of a malicious hate.