Take three parts The Wolf of Wall Street, one part Raiders of the Lost Ark, season with a dash of Jerry Maguire and voila! We get Gold. And if it sounds like these are three films that won’t mesh well together, it’s because, in fact, they don’t. Gold is a well-acted, well-shot, somewhat enjoyable and tonally confused piece, which, while allowing Matthew McConaughey to remind us all that he is capable of “serious” acting, is just “all right”.
The movie tells the story of a man who goes from rags to riches again and again through little more than dumb luck and a poor choice of friends. We follow Kenny Wells (McConaughey), a crass, down-on-his-luck prospector, who teams up with the allegedly brilliant geologist Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez) to find gold in the jungles of Indonesia.
The physical transformation McConaughey underwent to play the hard-drinking, pot-bellied protagonist is impossible to miss. However, while going to physical extremes might have paid off with an Oscar for his turn in Dallas Buyers Club, starring in fact-based films that allow him to change his BMI to become a character clearly cannot continue to be the foundation upon which the rest of his career is built.
Make no mistake, the cast of Gold do a great job with what they are given. Bryce Dallas Howard shines as Wells’s long-suffering girlfriend, Kay, even though she is underused, and McConaughey delivers a standout performance once again. The unflattering camera angles and unabashed long shots of him in the nude provide ample opportunity for the actor to show us what he’s made of. He truly embodies the complete disaster that is his character and is, at times, even delightful to watch. However, the film as a whole falls short because of a script that strives to do too much.
Trying to redeem the two largely irredeemable sleazeballs in the final act feels more like a Hail Mary pass than character development; especially considering that Wells does little to change or better himself as the plot progresses. Attempting to pass the protagonist’s lust for finding gold off as somehow different than a passion for earning money comes across as absurd. And the movie struggles to make the audience buy into the two love stories clumsily squished somewhere near the muddled centre of this story. The bromance feels forced, and key moments of tenderness between Kay and Wells are fuelled largely by the reckless greed and consumerism that the film is apparently attempting to caution us against. Not to mention the fact that the reason why Kay puts up with Wells at all is a mystery that will baffle viewers for years to come.
Ultimately, Gold accomplishes very little of what it apparently intends to. It’s ambitious in that sense but, following the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle, the whole thing comes across as derivative.
Gold is released nationwide on 3rd February 2017.
Watch the trailer for Gold here: