Sydney Film Festival Review: Goldstone (Australia, 2016)

Goldstone was easily my most anticipated film of this year’s Sydney Film Festival, and it’s fair to say it did not disappoint. Written, directed, edited and pretty much everything else by Ivan Sen, it is sure to join the pantheon of great Aussie films – a triumph from start to finish.

Seeing the return of Aaron Pedersen as Aboriginal Detective Jay Swan, the film is set in the fictional mining town of Goldstone, a town that may be small to look at but is rife with corruption and greed. When Swan drunkenly arrives in town working on a missing persons case he quickly butts heads with local cop Josh (superbly played in a star-making turn by Alex Russell), who is getting sick and tired of spending his days breaking up squabbles on the mine site. Lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it), Swan’s arrival quickly brings some much needed action to the tiny town, as his caravan is all but destroyed in a blaze of gunfire while he sleeps.

It quickly becomes clear that something fishy is at play, and suspicions soon turn to the mine manager Johnny (David Wenham) and the mayor (Jacki Weaver), who are keen to get an extension to the mine site approved by local Aboriginal land council leader, Jimmy (David Gulpilil).

Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley called Goldstone a “complex and layered work that comes together brilliantly in Ivan Sen’s signature outback noir style”, and I couldn’t agree more. One part Western, one part Detective Noir and one part uniquely Australian, Goldstone is a no holds barred action thriller which has you gripped on the edge of your seat from the minute the first scene kicks into gear. Handled effortlessly by Sen’s direction, the action scenes come quick and fast, and are perfectly interspersed with his own special brand of larrikin Aussie humour. One scene in particular stands out, where a tense gun fight is broken up by mine workers hanging out the washing or taking out the bins.

Though I haven’t seen Mystery Road (I know I know I’m terrible, please forgive me!) that didn’t seem to matter. There was enough dialogue between the two cops to piece together Swan’s character history, and the introduction to a raft of new and zany characters meant that there wasn’t too much of a connection between those who appeared in the first installment. Wenham is a particular highlight, garbed in a uniform of dorky glasses, short-shorts and high socks to the knees, he steals every scene he is in. The same goes for Weaver, who is surely now one of Australia’s great film treasures, who reportedly flew back to the country just to play the role. Appearing before the screening, Sen stated he wrote the character with Weaver in mind and cheekily admitted he had to ‘stalk’ her in order to convince her to take on the role.

Goldstone is set to premiere nationwide in just a few short weeks, and I will happily spend that time telling everyone I know to forgo the latest Hollywood blockbuster and go see it. It’s well worth your time.

Review score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Goldstone screened as part of Sydney Film Festival, and will premiere nationwide July 7, 2016.