Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Craig T Nelson, Toby Kebbell, Bill Camp, Joshua Harto, Timothy Simons, Rachael Taylor, Stacy Keach, Mason Blair, Adam Lefevre.
Matthew McConaughey goes from strength to strength with his recent choice of roles, and here he gives another winning performance in the financial drama Gold. He plays Kenny Wells, the eccentric, overly confident, alcoholic and down on his luck prospector and hustler, the son of a legendary and respected mining businessman (a cameo from Craig T Nelson). But when he inherits the Washoe Mining Company, his lack of business acumen runs the firm into bankruptcy. Operating out of a nearby bar, Kenny believes that he has stumbled on a deal that will save his company and reverse his fortunes, and prove himself worthy of his father’s legacy. Teaming up with rogue geologist Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez, recently seen in the remake of Point Break, The Girl On The Train, etc), who claims to know how to find a rich untapped deposit of gold in the Indonesian jungles.
The pair have a handshake deal to exploit a rich gold deposit. Relying on Acosta’s expertise to find the gold, Kenny tries to raise financing for the venture. But things do not unfold exactly as Kenny hoped. When they declare they have found the largest gold deposit of the century and take their company public, the pair are forced to make deals with ruthless bankers and stock brokers and unscrupulous businessmen ready to exploit them.
Not to be confused with the 1974 thriller of the same name starring Roger Moore, Gold has been loosely inspired by the Bre X Minerals gold scandal on the early 90s in which a Canadian mining company reported finding a huge gold deposit in Indonesia. They struck it rich on the stock exchange as investors were keen to reap the rewards, but then it all went pear shaped. Writers Patrick Massett and John Zinman (who come from a background in television and whose only feature film credit is Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) have taken liberties with the actual story for dramatic purposes and turned Gold into another rags to riches tale of greed, financial chicanery, ambition, hubris, corruption, and the pursuit of the American Dream. They manage to gloss over complex financial terms. Some elements of the film will invite comparison to recent films like The Big Short, The Wolf Of Wall Street and American Hustle, although it lacks the same sense of energy and visual flair.
Director Stephen Gaghan is better known for rich, sprawling multi-character driven dramas like Traffic, and this is his first film since 2005’s Oscar winning Syriana. Here his direction is a little uneven, and he can’t quite get a handle on the complex structure which involves extended flashbacks, voice over narration and too many characters who have little to do. The film also seems a little too long with an overly generous running time of 122 minutes and some scenes that smack of padding.
Shooting in 35mm, Oscar winning cinematographer Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood, etc) gives the film a rich visual palette, and the scenes set in the Indonesian jungle (actually filmed in Thailand) give us a strong sense of location. And the film is steeped in the ambience of the late 80s with a soundtrack full of hits from the era.
McConaughey is leaving behind the light weight roles in formulaic romantic comedies for more substantial and complex character roles, and here he has undergone quite a physical transformation to play Kenny. He has put on about 45 pounds and shaved his head, and he oozes sweat, desperation and a sense of failure in equal measure. But he inhabits the character completely and his energetic performance gives the film a strong focus. It’s obvious he is having a ball with the character. And even though the morally questionable Kenny is a fairly unlikeable character, the affable and charismatic McConaughey makes us care about him, which is a remarkable achievement in itself.
Ramirez is solid as the enigmatic Costa, but his character remains sadly underdeveloped, considering the role he plays in shaping events. Bryce Dallas Howard is good in a small but important role as Kenny’s long suffering wife Kaylene, who is not quite as dumb as most people think, and she seems to have a pretty good handle on where Kenny’s arrogance is taking him. The supporting cast includes Corey Stoll as a shrewd and pushy financier; Stacy Keach as another banker; Rachael Taylor as a gold digging journalist who flirts with Kenny; Toby Kebbell as an FBI agent investigating Kenny’s company; and Bruce Greenwood who is underused as a rapacious rival mining magnate.
While Gold doesn’t exactly hit the jackpot, it is a flawed but still diverting enough romp, thanks largely to McConaughey’s performance that holds the film together.