All that glitters …
Despite his solid performance, McConaughey’s latest isn’t quite gold
You have to give Matthew McConaughey an “A” for effort in his latest film excursion, the “loosely based on a true story” Gold.
McConaughey not only stars as wannabe gold magnate Kenny Wells, he also co-produced the movie, plus thinned his hair, put in weird teeth and gained some weight as he fully committed to the role.
Sadly, maximum effort doesn’t result in optimized return. The movie is an uneven, confused endeavor, and physically, McConaughey comes off as a guy who is normally in really good shape simply messing himself up for a few months to shoot a movie. He doesn’t look like a real guy (e.g., the way Robert De Niro did when he destroyed his physicality for Raging Bull), he just looks made up and slightly out of shape, which is distracting.
The film is based loosely upon the Bre-X gold scandal of the 1990s. The original story was based in Canada, while director Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) brings it to the U.S.
In his second treasure-hunting film role with “Gold” in the title (remember 2008’s Fool’s Gold? Didn’t think so!), McConaughey goes full throttle as the fictional character Wells, owner of a prospecting business in Reno who’s looking for that one strike that will make him legendary. In his search, he comes across a renowned explorer, Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez), who has the ties and ingenuity to mine unsearched parts of Indonesia. Wells pawns his watch, goes into business with Acosta, and starts panning for the real deal.
This is where the movie becomes a little haphazard. There are a lot of shots with Wells flying around to different locations like Indonesia and New York. There’s a substantial sequence where Wells is running around in the jungle with Acosta and getting ill, and another substantial part of the film that deals with the business/stock exchange ramifications of Wells’ dealings. It all becomes a bit much, a little too hard to keep track of, and ultimately too routine to distinguish itself. It plays like The Wolf of Wall Street minus most of the fun (but not minus the McConaughey!). It’s the same basic plot: A headstrong guy tries to take the fast track to big riches and gets his butt kicked hard in the end.
If the film has a partial saving grace, it is McConaughey, who remains fully committed to the role and makes Wells an engaging character, even when the events swirling around him are confusing and lack originality. The movie is almost worth the admission price if only to see a good actor giving his all.
As for storytelling, there’s nothing new here, and the big twist isn’t a surprise at all. The movie wants to be a jungle adventure movie and business adventure all in one, and the two don’t meld together well. In fact, it winds up feeling like four or five movies mushed together.
Bryce Dallas Howard—who had a lousy 2016 with the god awful Pete’s Dragon remake and now this—plays Wells’ long-suffering girlfriend, a role that utilizes absolutely none of her talents. She shows up every now and then looking mildly frustrated, then disappears for large chunks of the story.
While it’s hard to feel bad for an Oscar-winning multimillionaire, it is a bit depressing to see McConaughey do all of this for naught. Gold is definitely one that plays better on paper than it does on the big screen.