You know what’s kind of funny? Even though there are so many sequels released every year from Hollywood, there are surprisingly not that many sequels to Australian films. It’s not to say that they don’t exist (the MAD MAX series would be the first one to pop into people’s heads), it’s just that they’re few and far between that we don’t feel saturated by them when compared to the ones released by Hollywood. In fact when an Aussie film does get a sequel, it’s actually quite surprising. One of those in particular is director Ivan Sen’s GOLDSTONE, which is the sequel to his acclaimed 2013 Aussie film MYSTERY ROAD.
Set a few years after the events of MYSTERY ROAD, we find Indigenous police detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) as he travels to the small mining town of Goldstone to find a young woman who has gone missing. However due to a recent tragedy that has happened to him, Jay has fallen onto hard times and has turned to alcohol to numb his pain. Just outside of town, he is immediately arrested for drunk driving by young local policemen Josh (Alex Russell). After finding out that he is a detective, Josh lets Jay go to continue his investigation. However when the town’s mayor Maureen (Jacki Weaver) hears about Jay, she asks Josh to keep a close eye on him. As Jay delves deeper into his investigation, he soon discovers that there is something far larger going on and turns to Josh for help. The two men put aside their differences and team up to uncover the truth.
I must admit while I did quite like MYSTERY ROAD when I saw it at the Melbourne International Film Festival back in 2013 (you can check out my video review of it here), I didn’t think it was as great as my fellow film critics made it out to be. However what I thought were the film’s strongest aspects were Aaron Pedersen’s memorable performance as “Detective Jay Swan”, writer/director Ivan Sen’s concept for a modern western/noir film set in the Aussie outback and having the main character have an indigenous background, which definitely added some interesting layers to the film. Those were the main reasons why I was very intrigued in checking out the sequel GOLDSTONE, to see how it would measure as a follow-up to its predecessor. So what did I think of it?
Not only is GOLDSTONE a hugely superior than the first film in every way, its also one of 2016’s best films too. Sen (who was also the film’s composer, cinematographer and editor too) has crafted a really terrific and superbly made crime thriller that I found truly riveting from beginning to end. Sen does a fantastic work with both his direction and script here. Whether it’s a scene of characters just simply talking or an action set piece, each scene is so skilfully done that you can’t help but feel compelled by everything that’s happen onscreen. Sen’s script in particular has some really interesting thematic elements to it that provided the film a lot more depth than other films of its type. When it came to approaching the film’s characters, Sen did a great job at writing them in a way made them both engaging and complex. Which definitely gave the cast more to chew on with their roles. Particularly with the film’s leads Aaron Pedersen and Alex Russell, who were terrific.
Pedersen once again gives a commanding turn as “Jay Swan”. While the has become a broken and troubled man since the events in MYSTERY ROAD, that doesn’t stop “Jay” from doing his job as a dedicated police detective. All these added layers give Pedersen so much to work with and he plays it superbly. CHRONICLE star Alex Russell was also equally great in his role of “Josh”. He such a wonderful job at conveying the struggle that he’s character faces internally extremely well and I found his arc through out the film to be quite compelling. While the supporting cast (David Wenham, David Gulpilil, Michelle Lim Davidson etc.) were all strong in their roles, the stand out for me of course was Jacki Weaver as “Maureen”. While there are definitely are some aspects of the character that quite similar to her Oscar nominated turn as “Smurf” in ANIMAL KINGDOM, Weaver still so damn great at playing an antagonist that she’s mesmerizing whenever she’s onscreen. She’s can brilliantly play “Maureen” sweet and cheerful one minute, then suddenly play her ice-cold and serious a second later. How Weaver can do that in the space of one scene is just fantastic.
Also both Sen’s breathtaking cinematography captures the stark isolated landscape of the outback perfect and original score was memorably epic. In terms of negatives, I only had few minor issues with the film. When compared to mystery in MYSTERY ROAD which I found rather complex if a bit muddled, this sequel’s mystery is pretty easy to follow and figure out. While that is a really good thing in a lot of ways but I must admit, it did make the plot rather predicable though. Plus I did feel that some aspects of both the story and characters could have been developed a bit more and the pacing can be a bit slow at times too.
Overall despite some few minor flaws, GOLDSTONE is a really great and extremely well crafted mystery thriller that’s a stronger and more accomplished film than MYSTERY ROAD. It’s one of the few sequels that’s better than the first film in every single way. If you love Aussie films, intense thrillers, cop films, westerns or noir, this film is a terrific combination of all those things and I highly recommended everyone to check it out. I really hope that director Ivan Sen makes a third film in the series soon ’cause I want to see where “Jay Swan’s” story goes to next.
Review by Bede Jermyn