All that glitters
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, thinned his hair, put in some weird teeth and gained some weight for the role.
Sadly, maximum effort doesn’t result in optimized return for Gold. The movie is an uneven, confused endeavor, and McConaughey’s physicality comes off looking like a guy who’s in really good shape simply messing himself up for the few months it takes to shoot a movie. He doesn’t look like a real guy in the way Robert De Niro did when he destroyed his physicality for Raging Bull. He just looks slightly out-of-shape and made-up, which is distracting.
Even if he looked like a fuzzy elephant wearing sunglasses, Gold would still be a bit of a mess, albeit a sometimes entertaining one.
Wells is a fictional character, and the film is based loosely upon the Bre-X gold scandal of the 1990s. The original scandal occured in Canada, while director Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) brings the story to the U.S.
McConaughey goes full throttle as 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 Ramirez), who has the ties and ingenuity to mine unsearched parts of Indonesia. Kenny pawns his watch, goes into business with Acosta, and starts panning for the real deal.
This is where the movie goes 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 runs around in the jungle with Acosta and gets ill, and another substantial part of the film that deals with the business/stock exchange ramifications of Kenny’s dealings. It all becomes a bit much, a little too hard to keep track of, and ultimately too routine to distinguish itself.
In the end, it plays like The Wolf of Wall Street minus most of the fun, but not minus the McConaughey. (He’s in both!) 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. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t feature Kenny Wells trying to get in his car after taking a bunch of slow-release Quaaludes.
Bryce Dallas Howard, who had a lousy 2016 with this and that god awful Pete’s Dragon remake, plays Kenny’s long suffering girlfriend, a role that uses absolutely none of her talents. She shows up every now and then looking mildly frustrated, than disappears for large swaths of the story.
If the film has a partial saving grace, it’s McConaughey, who remains fully committed to the role and makes Wells an engaging character, even when the events swirling around him are confusing and lacking originality. The movie is almost worth seeing if only to see a good actor giving his all.
As for simple 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. The movie winds up feeling like four or five movies mushed together.
While it’s hard to feel bad for a multi-millionaire, Oscar-winning actor, it is a bit depressing to see one of the good ones do all of this for naught. This is definitely one that plays on paper better than it does on the big screen.
It’s not worth the strain he must’ve put on his cardiovascular system to obtain added weight, although I’m sure he had some fun nights pounding milk shakes and burgers. So, at least he’s got that going for him.