MARCH 23, 2018 -- Australia has been kicking out what one might call the new Spaghetti Western - films set in Australia's rugged outback. Movies like "Red Hill" and "The Proposition" give a good feel of the American western films but set in modern day Australia. They work because of the country's vast expanses of nothingness.


Aboriginal writer/Director Ivan Sen has come into his own developing these modern outback westerns featuring aboriginal actors in the leads. Kind of like a reversal of the American oater; if Native Americans had been cast in the leads and whites in support. [That would have made it "Tonto and the Lone Ranger".]


His latest film features Aaron Pedersen in the lead as Detective Jay Swan who is sent to a remote mining town to investigate a missing persons report. We first meet him being pulled over for drunk driving by officer Josh Waters (Alex Russell) who immediately tosses him in jail to sleep it off. It is while Jay is asleep that Josh discovers he's a detective.

The town, run by "The Mayor (Jacki Weaver) is corrupt to the core. It's biggest employer is a mine that amuses it's male employees with prostitutes flown in from East Asia; the mines secondary business is human trafficking. The missing person Jay is investigating is one of those prostitutes.


Tension between The Mayor, the mining super Johnny (David Wenham), Josh and Jay develops as the animosity toward the Aborigine grows. The tension comes to a head when it is discovered an elder Aborigine (David Gulpilil) starts talking to Josh and spilling the beans about the mine's second business.


It is at this point when the film seems starkly similar to the recent "Wind River", Taylor Sheridan's film set on a remote Native American reservation with a local company hiding the goings on. (To be sure, "Goldstone" was film a year before "Wind River".) Similar stories however, Ivan left a few holes in the story. For example, you will wonder who filed the missing person report if everyone is hiding something.


There are a couple of other holes in the story, but none that detract greatly from the film. Wenham's character is well defined and it's not very clear what the corporation has on Josh at the onset of the film. Howver the film moves along fast enough that you won't dwell on it.


Pederson gives a serviceable performance as the gritty detective and Weaver is vampish as the mayor with her finger in everything.


"Goldstone" is a well done drama set in the Australian outback that will remind western movie buffs of similar films set in the American West. It garnered several Australian film nominations and, deservedly so.   -- GRADE C+ --   GEOFF BURTON