The McCon-naisance was a phenomenon concerning Matthew McConaughey, who, after paddling in the shallow waters of awful romantic comedies, decided to tackle more substantial fare starting with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer.
From there, McConaughey landed the best reviews of his career, landing an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, while delivering in films as diverse as Interstellar and The Paperboy. Yet, it seems to have gone slightly awry for the actor since, with both The Sea of Trees and Free State of Jones being met with lukewarm critical and commercial response.
He’ll be hoping to redress the balance in Gold, which sees him play Kenny Wells, a prospector desperate for a lucky break, who teams up geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez). The pair embark on a journey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia, but when they strike lucky they discover that their problems are only just beginning...
The world of gold prospecting is an intriguing and murky one – ripe, then, for Hollywood to sink its teeth into, especially given that this story is one that is based on true events. All told, Gold is a film that is worth panning for, though its preoccupation with surface concerns rather than digging deeper into this world of gigantic money and power means that is doesn’t perhaps shine as brightly as you would hope.
Given that he put on 45lbs and made himself balding for the role, Matthew McConaughey throws himself headlong into the role of Kenny Wells, a man who took his father’s prosperous company into near collapse before restoring its fortunes through a trip to Indonesia. While the actor perhaps reverts to type a little too often (for all his ability, McConaughey’s laconic drawl is easily, if unfairly, lampooned) it’s still a charismatic turn that, while a little too familiar in its rags-to-riches-back-to-rags story, holds your attention.
Wells isn’t a bad guy, just one whose inability to maintain success and grasping defeat from the jaws of victory, yet who won’t lie down and take it, and McConaughey brings him to life well.
Alongside him, his partner Michael Acosta is also well-realised by the underrated Edgar Ramirez; the straight man to Wells’ charismatic showman, Ramirez’s turn is cool and level-headed, maintaining his composure while all around him pivots on champagne, private helicopters and more champagne, until a surprise twist throws everything in the air.
They are backed up by small but well-delivered performances from the likes of Bryce Dallas Howard as Kenny’s long-time (and, you get the impression, long-suffering) girlfriend, Corey Stoll and Toby Kebbell, who all bring something to the table.
Director Stephen Gaghan is better known for writing Traffic and Syriana (which he also directed), both films that exposed the dark (or darker) underbellies of the world of drugs and oil respectively, making him a good choice to helm a film that tackles the world of prospecting. While he makes a decent fist of it, he never seems to truly get a handle on the subject matter, never really getting underneath the story, which just tends to hit the right notes at the right times and little more.
Writers John Zinman and Patrick Massett have spent much of their careers writing for episodic television, and in a way it shows here, with the film aping the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street in terms of structure and plotting.
There is a reveal which comes as a welcome curveball, but that aside the pair don’t really create a narrative that goes below the surface, with only lip services paid when another gold prospector comes on the scene.
It does take the shine off Gold somewhat, that while the performances are engaging enough, the story doesn’t have enough meat (nor depth) to truly satisfy – it’s a film that shimmers but one that will likely fade from view post-credits.
VERDICT: A story that demanded more depth yet lacks it, Gold showcases decent turns from its cast but doesn’t dig deep enough to find the narrative treasures that lay beneath the surface.
There is a compelling tale to be told, but it’s slightly mishandled, leaving the charms of the cast to drag it over the line. Enjoyable.
SEE THIS IF YOU LIKED: Blood Diamond (2006), The Wolf of Wall Street (2014).