Who is Goldstone for, exactly? Who are the people for whom it holds lasting appeal? People who appreciate perspectives from outside the U.S., perhaps -- it's an Australian crime thriller, a sort of Western noir set in the outback. Certainly critics, for those same reasons, although to be honest, its ending is a bit overwrought. To be honest, the original score is trying a little too hard. Do we really need these sweeping and emotionally manipulative crescendos here?
The director, Ivan Sen, seems to think so. Well, here's a curious tidbit: Ivan Sen is also credited with the original music. How often does that happen? Well, this guy also wrote the script, served as cinematographer, and editor. Is there anything he doesn't do?
He should have delegated. Goldstone is a movie with great potential largely unrealized. It's a good movie, and very impressive for one man doing all those things, but it could have been great. It's always great to see Jacki Weaver, as the mayor of the titular town, but the part she is given is criminally underdeveloped, none of her lines given lasting impact.
Boy, though, does this movie look good. For a setting out in the middle of nowhere, nearly nothing but flat land and dust, it's beautifully shot. If only everything else could have been given this level of attention. The editing could have used some tightening, taking maybe ten minutes out of this rather leisurely paced story. I was never bored, mind you, but I can think of few people I know who would not have been.
There is a climactic shootout, when things get genuinely exciting after about an hour and a half. The sequence is expertly shot, though, the camera gliding overhead of a bird's-eye view of two law enforcement officers weaving through a maze of trailers in pursuit of criminals. For me, this was nicely satisfying. For most, it will be too little too late.
Sen wants us to be thinking about the sociopolitical landscape of the Australian outback, the lingering effects of history between colonizers and Aborigines, distilled down to a tiny town run by corrupt people across the board with an understandably weary native population. These issues aren't examined with great clarity, but I suppose their acknowledgment is something.
The first characters we meet are Goldstone police officer Josh Waters (an endlessly handsome Alex Russell), who happens upon state police detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), drunk behind the wheel of his truck. Before long we learn that one of Swan's parents was Aborigine, giving him a curious position between the town leadership's eagerness to expand the nearby mining operation, and the native population being pressured into granting consent.
In the middle of all this, Swan is in the area investigating a missing person -- a young Asian girl likely connected to the Asians being flown in for brief periods for sex work. How much truth is there to this scenario, I wonder? All these young women appear to be there under duress, although in execution it feels more like plot device than cinematic realism.
It's entirely possible there is some massive context I am missing, which prevents me from recognizing Goldstone's greatness. To be fair, I did like it, for the most part, until the very end, which falls prey to a few too many Hollywood clichés -- unfortunately ironic for a movie not at all out of Hollywood. In any case, Sen creates a tone and an aesthetic that is unique and specific. To be honest, an Outback-set film that succeeds better on all those fronts would be The Rover (2014). It may not be quiet as pretty, but it's both quiet and better paced, with superior performances.
These are movies with limited reach, but with their own rewards. Those of Goldstone are sufficient, to varying degrees even impressive, if in the long run relatively unmemorable.