Film Review: Goldstone

An Outback crime thriller whose derivativeness is matched by its obviousness.
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Goldstone is a sequel to 2013’s Mystery Road, yet this Outback crime thriller is really a continuation—or should I say, regurgitation—of countless superior genre predecessors. There isn’t a moment to be found in writer-director Ivan Sen’s feature that hasn’t been seen, in some form or another, in a better work. Compounding matters, that wholesale lack of originality is married to crushing storytelling obviousness. The result is a formally proficient saga that’s inert and tedious through and through.

In the vast Australian desert lies the town of Goldstone, which is just a collection of standalone trailers, some of them serving as homes, others as diners, and others still as the local whorehouse. Policing this terrain is Josh (Alex Russell), an upstanding cop who spends his time breaking up fights between drunks, and tacitly turning the other cheek (albeit refusing to take bribes!) to the business of the Furnace Creek mining operation, which is all that’s propping up this ramshackle community. It’s a quiet life, full of easy work and occasional homemade pies courtesy of cheery Maureen (Jackie Weaver), who’s working to help mining bigwig Johnny (David Wenham) get his expansion plans approved by an indigenous council led by aged Jimmy (David Gulpilil).

Things get complicated when Mystery Road’s Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) shows up, sloshed, looking for a missing Chinese girl who reportedly disappeared in the area. Just as Maureen and Johnny’s villainy is plain for all to see, it barely takes him—or the audience—any time to deduce that she was a prostitute flown into Goldstone by the mining company and made to service their employees against her will, only to die trying to escape. The mine’s crimes are so out in the open that no investigation is actually necessary; the first logical hypothesis to the situation at hand is undeniably the correct one. Nonetheless, Goldstone spends an inordinate amount of time meandering its way forward, full of pointless conversations that reveal things already apparent to anyone paying attention, and incessant aerial shots which confirm that Sen got his money’s worth out of his drones.

Underscoring the material is the fraught relationship between white and black Australians, and the exploitation of minorities—historically, and presently—by the former. This speaks to Swan’s own conflicted relationship to his compatriots and this arid habitat, which was once home to his father and two uncles. However, those intriguing concerns are treated as mere embellishments, and aren’t enough to compensate for the proceedings’ frustrating thinness. Every plot point here is recycled, and telegraphed from a mile away, until all that remains is the bleak atmosphere of the film’s setting and Pedersen’s gruff, tormented stoicism. Aiming to be a fatalistic neo-noir about the struggle to right individual, corporate and cultural wrongs, Goldstone merely feels like a retread that’s been left out in the sun too long.

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