There are few actors in Hollywood working at the moment quite as watchable as Matthew Mcconaughey. Gone are the days of Southern charm-filled rom-coms; the McConaissance has bigger mines to drill. And while his latest nugget of a role takes him as far as the deepest forests of Indonesia in the partially true story of Gold, the film itself may not be worth as much as its star’s weighty performance.
Gold tells the tale of Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a Nevada-based businessman/mining executive down on his luck. Sporting a receding hairline and a gigantic beer belly even Homer Simpson would be embarrassed by, Wells gives the search for a bounty one last attempt by acquiring the services of maverick geologist Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez) to find gold deep in the uncharted jungles of Borneo.
Via some workers strikes and a bout of malaria, we don’t think it’s not too much of a spoiler to confess the pair stumble across the mother of all loads. What appears to be the biggest gold deposit ever discovered, in fact. True to any film made about rags to riches since the financial crisis, Kenny has to navigate Wall Street money men and corrupt governments to keep hold of his bounty, all the while trying to not push away his long-suffering partner, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.
Gold took 6 years to come fruition, with Spike Lee, Michael Mann and Christian Bale all linked with the production at some point or another. And starting with the positives, Stephen Gaghan was a great choice of director. Most notable for his Traffic screenplay, the Syriana writer and director gives Gold an assurance and poise that is badly needs given the scope of the thing. Travelling seamlessly from the dingy bars of Reno, to the jungles of Indonesia, to the boardrooms of Manhattan is no easy feat. And for that reason, a special shout out should go out to the editing team too.
Then we come to McConaughey, who delivers a performance with total conviction and gives the character just enough shyster to fit the billing but also enough underdog pluckiness to make him likable. The role couldn’t really be anyone else’s but McConaughey’s.
If Gold all sounds a bit familiar – not only because you know the story of the Bre-X mining scandal, on which the film is based – it’s probably because is it familiar. While being compared to the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street is no bad thing in and of itself, Gold never excels in any of the characteristics it wishes to inhabit.
Put simply the script isn’t good enough. Or at least it’s nowhere near dark enough. You never truly see the depths of Wells barring a clichéd boozy night and a quick nap next to a motel phone booth. And as much as we’re told Gold isn’t just about the money, it’s hard to sympathise with a man who’s turned down $300 billion because of naming rights.
Another major problem is that while Wells is a more than engrossing lead, the film lacks real depth when he’s not dominating the screen. Dallas Howard doesn’t get nearly enough airtime to do anything other than stand by her man, and there’s a whole other film waiting to be made about Édgar Ramírez’s Michael Acosta too.
On paper, Gold has all the ingredients. Alongside its genuine star, it packs the cautionary nihilism tales of capitalist America seen in The Wolf of Wall Street, while also serving up true crime elements found in the likes of American Hustle. But as watchable as Gold is – and it truly is – Gold lacks the sophistication and the same commitment McConaughey delivers to Wells.
OUR RATING: 3 Stars
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