Directed by Ivan Sen
Written by Ivan Sen
First off, a shout out to Jason King from Salty Popcorn, his claim of this being the best western since Unforgiven had me sold, and I’m not sure if this was that good, but it comes damned close.
A semi-sequel to the stellar Aussie Western Mystery Road, Goldstone again follows the exploits of Jay Swan, an Aboriginal detective who, in dealing with the small town he lives in, often finds himself locking up his own kind. Due to this and other circumstances that are briefly explained, as well as what he went through in Mystery Road, at the beginning of this film we see him in a bad way. He is arrested for driving while drunk, only for the white officer to realise that he is a detective.
This is a movie with layers. Many, many layers. It is an astute social commentary that inserts an interesting story into the world that we live in, only of course exaggerated for entertainment value. And when I say the world we live in, I am talking about Rural Australia. This is an Australian movie and it is rather obvious from the beginning, what with our incredibly sexy accents and amazing landscapes, often captured from a direct overheard viewpoint, which really helps create the atmosphere that this is the desert – it is a big, lonely place. But this film has depth beyond the Australian focus, and the town Jay is visiting could be any town or city.
Perhaps visiting is the wrong word; it transpires that Jay has been sent by Federal authorities to this small town, but its residents do not want him near them. At first it seems like racism, but there are no blatant racist remarks. Adding tension is a well-written script, where the mayor and others in the town make remarks in a passive-aggressive way, filled with venom. They don’t want him in after his exploits in the last film, which this town has of course heard about. But the real reason the mayor wants him out of town is simple.
It is rife amongst our government, and this film excellently explores this concept within a small town setting, where the mayor has everyone under her thumb, and has dirty secrets that she does not want Jay finding out. It is an apt metaphor for the society we live in, whether it is a capital city or a rural town.
Not only does Goldsdtone explore racism in Australia, with one particularly dark scene, what Jay discovers in his travels is shocking, and is yet again relevant to the society we live in. Australia isn’t all that different from other Western countries and I am sure this movie will make sense to anyone. Native people seem to cop harsh treatment no matter the country, and immigration is always a hot topic, which this film touches on as well as a main part of the narrative.
With this social commentary is in the background, we are left with a fantastic Western. It obviously isn’t a traditional western, more like a modern western, but the framework is there and the filmmakers don’t waste the viewer’s time as Jay methodically tries to find the missing person he was sent to find. An important character is police officer Josh (Alex Russell), who is the man who originally arrested Jay. His attitude towards Jay and what he is discovering slowly changes. Towards race, what his job really means – especially in an areas where many Aboriginal people live – and most importantly, that he is an enforcer for a mayor who owns the town. Bad things are happening on his watch.
What ensues is a great combination of mystery, western and action, with a final shoot-out that is executed with finesse. The final series of scenes are without dialogue, and are all the more powerful because of this, revealing what Jay has learned about himself.
This is a near flawless film. There is high quality Australian acting all-round, by lesser known names for the most part, and there is some beautiful cinematography that captures the barren landscape of the Australian earth, with the background of the bush stretching out towards the horizon. The film also often utilises extreme facial close-ups that often hammer home the point being made. This is the best Australian film that has been made in a while, and I hope that the rest of the world gets the opportunity to see what we can really do.
Half a beer short of a sixer.