Given how few people live in the tiny mining outpost of “Goldstone,” the abundance of wickedness is astonishing.
Yet this parched Outback western, awash in noirish mannerisms and a sunstroke-inducing palette, harbors a robust social conscience beneath its hotbed of bribery and sex trafficking.
To play the most vile (if not the most clichéd) residents of this heat-hammered hellhole, the writer and director, Ivan Sen, smartly hired two virtual legends. As the ruthless mayor, Jacki Weaver is a weaponized Martha Stewart, masking the stink of mining-corporation corruption with the aroma of home-baked apple pies.
Over at the local pleasure palace, Cheng Pei Pei is squeezed into the much smaller role of town madam.
“The world was not made for you,” she admonishes one of her unhappy Chinese charges. “You were made for it.”
It’s a sentiment that Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), a perpetually sozzled Aboriginal detective, can appreciate. Distrusted by whites and blacks alike, he exhibits all the tics and trappings of the alienated loner, including a ratty trailer and a mistrust of personal hygiene. His uneasy alliance with Josh (Alex Russell), a morally conflicted white police officer, is the movie’s thematic heart.
Yet its sociopolitical concerns — primarily around indigenous land rights — are muted and muddled by a script that favors manly grunting and moody looks over clarifying dialogue.
Riven with racism and sharp bursts of violence, “Goldstone” nevertheless has a rough, desolate beauty. Gorgeous aerial shots reveal a blasted and burnished expanse, as if all of the town’s precious metal — unlike its crimes — lay nakedly, dazzlingly exposed.