Aaron Pedersen stars as indigenous detective Swan, who comes to the isolated outback mining town of Goldstone on a missing person’s case. He immediately rubs local copper Josh (Alex Russell) the wrong way by driving while intoxicated. Josh, for his part is being lured to the dark side by powerful people, but hasn’t quite been lost in the muck yet. Eventually these two very different lawmen come to realise that the seemingly simple case of a missing Asian girl is a much larger case of crime and corruption. Jacki Weaver plays the local mayor and proud baker, David Wenham is the manager of the mining company, Tom E. Lewis and David Gulpilil play a couple of local indigenous characters (the former corrupt), and Cheng Pei-Pei plays a local madam.
I haven’t seen the previous “Mystery Road” but had I done so, I’d probably be even more disappointed with this 2016 sequel (of sorts) from writer-director Ivan Sen. Aaron Pedersen is ideally cast, but this is plodding, clichéd and pretty unconvincing stuff. David Wenham and Jacki Weaver strike rare wrong notes in cardboard characterisations, whilst a not terribly convincingly cast Alex Russell is given a potentially interesting character he invests nothing of interest in. I have no idea why wuxia legend Cheng Pei-Pei is here, but she’s afforded little worth a damn here in an underdeveloped role. I’ll probably piss a lot of people off saying this but I find there’s something a little questionable about the way many filmmakers have used Indigenous actor David Gulpilil in films. Here he at least gets some dialogue, but for the most part he’s once again cast purely for symbolic/iconic purposes. It feels like filmmakers use him because they feel he has to be here given the subject matter, and don’t bother using him any more than that. Aside from Pedersen, the acting highlight is Max Cullen, who steals the show in a profane but hilarious cameo.
The script just isn’t up to snuff. I mean, not only is it as old as the hills, but you have Pedersen going through the same basic scene three times in a row with three different actors: Wenham, Weaver, and even an indigenous character (played by the one and only Jimmie Blacksmith himself, Tom E. Lewis) each tell him to stop sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. One scene after the other. Talk about plodding to the point of silliness. The pacing is disastrous, 55 minutes feels like 5 hours. Meanwhile for a film that is a sequel to something called “Mystery Road”, there’s absolutely zero mystery here. It’s transparent from very early on, which robs the film of any intrigue or suspense, really.
It’s a good-looking film and Aaron Pedersen is ideally cast, but this is slow, clichéd, transparent and dull. The plot and characters feel especially passé. Not good, and Sen absolutely makes a bollocks of the Michael Mann wannabe shoot-out finale. What the hell was that?