Goldstone is the second instalment from director Ivan Sen in his proposed trilogy following the impressive noir thriller Mystery Road (2013). It continues the story of detective Jay Swan, who has struggled to recover from the events of the first film. He is now a dishevelled, washed-up drunk, and he has been assigned to investigate the disappearance of an Asian girl in the remote mining town of Goldstone. Upon arrival, he immediately bumps heads with the local cop as he begins to uncover a tangled web of corruption and human trafficking.
Thematically and structurally the film is more or less a retread of the first film, which in itself is fine. Ivan Sen and his lead actor Aaron Pedersen have created a character that has the potential for cinematic greatness and the desolate and remote environments that they pit him against are often as breathtaking as they are terrifying. With Mystery Road they laid the groundwork for a bold franchise that could have gone in any direction, and yet, sadly, the opportunity to elaborate on the premise was squandered.
The film opens with an oddly placed slideshow featuring migrants and indigenous people working under the bondage of privileged white men in the 1800s. The images bare little relevance to the proceeding story and ultimately serve as a confusing and divisive piece of social commentary. Clearly both films in the series are steeped in Aboriginal culture, but when information is served in such a way it risks the film becoming pretentious and preachy before it begins. Perhaps Sen could have woven his message into the narrative, or perhaps he should tell that story at a later time. From this outset the film stumbles.
Just as Mystery Road featured an impressive ensemble of players, including Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten and Jack Thompson, Goldstone backs it up with an equally solid line up of talent, with David Wenham, David Gulpilil and Jacki Weaver bringing their weight of creditability to the story. It is unfortunate, however, that they’ve been given a mediocre script to work with, showcasing some truly stodgy dialogue. They’ve been dumped in a cliché-riddled environment where serious and grim themes are cheapened with ill conceived and unwelcome threads of humour. Wenham and Weaver, in particular, are forced to twist their performances into caricatures and the result is a muddled mess of genres and an underwhelming story-arc that replicates the first film.
Aside from the two police officer protagonists, none of the remaining characters are developed beyond their contrived exteriors. Weaver delivers a cringe-worthy turn as the town’s crooked mayor, with a performance that lampoons her critically acclaimed role in Animal Kingdom, while Wenham’s delivery of a corrupted mining boss recalls the whimsy of John Meillon in Crocodile Dundee. Throw in some random characters for the sake of a violent finale and the result is a mess.
In its favour, the film does look incredible. The textures of the first instalment have been recaptured and the majesty of the landscape has been exploited brilliantly. Glorious wide shots and sweeping aerial views lend it the visceral, cinematic substance that it so desperately needs, making Goldstone a very appealing film to look at.
Goldstone had the potential to build upon a solid foundation and create a valuable new local franchise, but sadly it flounders in its own vanity. Ivan Sen is undoubtedly a competent filmmaker. He’s fast becoming one of the country’s stand-out auteurs and making amends ought to be easy for him, so I am not disheartened by the prospect of a third instalment. There is always room for redemption, and the foundation for a serious, provoking and important story is already laid. Let’s see where he takes it from here…
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★☆☆☆