GOLD (USA/15A/121mins)
Directed by Stephen Gaghan. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Macon Blair, Corey Stoll
THE PLOT: When his mining company starts struggling due to the downturn in the economy in the 1980s, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) has a dream about finding gold in Indonesia. Teaming up with Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), Wells begins to mine for gold in Indonesia, but when the two strike it lucky, Wells finds himself riding the high of his newfound fortune and never thinks to question whether Acosta’s findings are actually real.
THE VERDICT: Directed by Stephen Gaghan in his first cinematic outing since ‘Syriana’ in 2005, ‘Gold’ struggles with some of the issues with pacing and clarity that similarly plagues ‘Syriana’. Although the film boasts an impressive cast – including Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Macon Blair and Edgar Ramirez – there are times when the film feels familiar and derivative of more wham-bam films that have gone before, including The Wolf of Wall Street.
Matthew McConaughey takes on another film about a character’s search for gold – after ‘Sahara’ and ‘Fool’s Gold’ – and although ‘Gold’ is based on a true story, it is hard to shake the feeling that McConaughey is playing a character very similar to ones we have seen him play before, and weight gain, bad teeth and bad hair do not a character make. Kenny Wells feels like a combination between Ron Woodroof from ‘The Dallas Buyers Club’ and Dallas from ‘Magic Mik’e, which is a strange and not necessarily endearing combination, especially when he plays like a cheap version of Jordan Belfort from ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Bryce Dallas Howard plays little more than arm candy, Edgar Ramirez turns on the charm and the mystique as Michael Acosta, while Corey Stoll and the wonderful Macon Blair are underused in supporting roles.
Patrick Massett and John Zinman’s screenplay is inspired by the story of Canadian mining company Bre-X Minerals Ltd, which went bust in 1997, but appears to have been highly fictionalised for the sake of a dramatic telling of the story. Although it seems that the pace of the film rockets by for the first half, it is in the second hour that the story falls over its own feet, and in not telling the story in any kind of linear fashion lessens the impact of the final act. As well as this, it is hard to shake the feeling that we have seen this film before, and it is more than a little derivative of Scorsese’s tale of corruption in the form of Jordan Belfort.
As director Stephen Gaghan never manages to tidy the film up and make it compelling viewing, and although there is a great yearn at the heart of ‘Gold’, the film gets too caught up with personal relationships that are meant to round out the characters, but never truly succeed. Bryce Dallas Howard, Macon Blair and Corey Stoll are completely underused in their roles, and there is a feeling that the audience never truly gets to know any character in the film, making it difficult to empathise with anyone in this messy rags to riches tale.
In all, ‘Gold’ feels too derivative and familiar to work on its own. None of the characters are fully created on screen, with great actors underused and the rest playing a combination of roles they have played in the past. There is a great tale at the centre of ‘Gold’, but the story is never quite brought to the surface and buffed to a shine like it should have been.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Director Stephen Gaghan has been quiet of late, not contributing much since his superb, Oscar-winning Syriana in 2005. But he’s back for only his third feature in 15 years with Gold. All that glitters is not gold though.

    Inspired by true events (Canadian mining company Bre-X), the film charts the rise and fall of Kenny (Matthew McConaughey) in 1988. A prospector who follows in the footsteps of his late father, he dreams of hitting gold bigtime and securing his future and that all-important American dream with partner Kay (Bryce Dallas-Howard). He teams up with geologist Michael (Edgar Ramireze) to explore a huge copper strike in the uncharted jungles of Indonesia. However, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg as in actuality there’s a vast resource of gold in the jungles just waited to be prospected. Flitting back and forth between New York and Indonesia, Kenny brings investment banker Brian (Corey Stoll) into the picture but then the picture starts to get murky. With so many fingers in this golden pie, who’s going to find the Midas Touch and tear out the biggest slice – possibly the biggest in gold mining history?

    For the duration of its two-hour runtime, Gold is built on a fairly solid foundation. Patrick Massett and John Zinman’s script is adept at getting the right tone of the film – the hope of a discovery, the foolishness of avarice, how money talks and rules people’s lives as if it was their lifeblood. It also focuses on how all this impacts on our main character, Kenny. He’s a man who is chasing the American dream, with $$$ signs in his eyes. While he handles the financial wheeling and dealing, Michael is up to his ears in mud and gold. The film’s anchor is on their partnership, while other characters come and go from the plot depending on their fortunes. Gaghan is never one to go down the obvious route of a gold prospecting film. This is a film less about gold and more about the corrupting power of money and its hold on people dreaming of a better future. However, that future may built on a house of cards.

    McConaughey, piling on 45 pounds and wearing false teeth, immerses himself in Kenny with his customary laidback charm and screen presence. It’s a typically strong McConaughey performance – not quite the type that’s going to win him an Oscar, but enough to keep the film moving through its occasionally jargon-filled moments about gold prospecting. Ramirez provides solid support, though Howard is left short-changed and lost in a very 80s hairdo with a two-dimensional girlfriend role that belies her talent.

    While the film is undeniably entertaining, it never really takes off in the way it should, structure-wise. A flash-forward to an FBI investigation led by Agent Jennings (Toby Kebbell) later in the film doesn’t really gel and leaves the closing scenes a little under-served. An earlier introduction to this to set the scene would have helped. More would have been expected from Gaghan, given how well-received Syriana was. Time away from the director’s chair might be a factor here, but that’s not a major complaint. Gold certainly has its moments and McConaughey is a delight to watch, shredding his Sexiest Man Alive award from 2005. His choice of roles continue to intrigue. Gold gets a silver medal from this reviewer. ***

  • emerb

    Directed by Stephen Gaghan (“Syriana”), “Gold” is a lively drama which was inspired by true events in Canada in the 90s. In this film, the action is transposed to the United States in 1988 with an apparently fictionalized cast of characters. It stars Matthew McConnaughey, who has undergone a major transformation to portray a balding, pot-bellied prospector who teams up with a business partner (Edgar Ramirez) in the hope that their underdog mining enterprise will catapult them to much wealth and success.

    McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a small-time mining executive raised in the business by his steadfast dad (Craig T. Nelson) who, in 1981, places key account responsibilities in his hands. Fast forward to 1988 and in the midst of a general economic downturn, we find Kenny struggling to keep the family company afloat. His father has died, the company is in debt, he has lost his house and is living with longtime girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), all the employees are making their phone calls from the bar where Kay waits tables and banks won’t even bid him the time of day.

    His spirits are broken but he then recalls meeting a geologist and gold-chaser Michael Acosta (Ramirez) who was behind a copper strike in Indonesia and Kenny liked his “can do” attitude. Kenny convinces Mike to go into business with him and in a final effort to save the firm, they make for the jungles in Asia in pursuit of what they hope will be a cache of precious metal. At first, their dig deep down the river seems futile, and Kenny comes close to dying of malaria. But then they strike – they find gold. However, it’s not all good news and their good fortune brings considerable complications. They find themselves beset by sharks from Wall Street, corrupt politicians and they need to face the law in order to keep hold of the bounty. How the story with all its twists and turns unfolds is captivating to watch.

    McConnaughey gives another remarkable performance as a pudgy, sweaty, balding and roguish mineral prospector in pursuit of the American Dream and it is he that gives the film its value. He inhabits the role with total conviction and despite his rather brusque treatment of his girlfriend, his hard-drinking and chain-smoking, he manages to invest his character with just enough charm to make him likable and even rather endearing. Howard does well with the small part she is given – trying to protect Kenny from the vultures who have now discovered how rich he has become. I’d like to have seen more of her and how their relationship developed and ended. Ramírez is well cast as the maverick geologist and although not remarkable, he holds his own opposite McConnaughey. He brings a certain confidence to Acosta which contrasts with the rather crazy and impulsive Wells.

    While it doesn’t compare to more recent fact-based films such as “American Hustle” or “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Gold” is nonetheless an entertaining film which keeps you engaged and interested. Stephen Gaghan does an impressive job behind the camera using a few clever framing devices such as the use of occasional voiceover to help tell the story and a series of flash-forwards to an interview between Kenny and an unidentified questioner which adds an extra layer of intrigue to the plot. It’s a movie that cleverly conveys the human desire
    to strike it rich at all costs, sometimes even at the expense of our own or another person’s well-being. I enjoyed this film and would recommend it for a good night of entertainment.