Gold review the priciest ore is a bore in Matthew McConaughey misfire
An allegedly true story emerges as a lackluster riff on American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street with a scrappy turn from an overly disguised lead star
Theres not much that glitters in Gold, a lackluster caper that proves that even the priciest ore can bore. Stephen Gaghans new film is an admixture of the capitalist nihilism from The Wolf of Wall Street and the cheap-suit true crime of American Hustle. On paper the elements are there, but unfortunately the alchemy fails. This years earlier picture War Dogs, already something of a formulaic copy, comes off looking like quite the jewel by comparison.
Matthew McConaughey, whose brief scene in The Wolf of Wall Street is well on its way to being considered iconic, is all over the map as the DIY metal man Kenny Wells. One moment he is slick and appealing, the next he is a shambling shyster. The screenplay lurches between comedy and intrigue, attempting to sell Wellss love of penetrating the earth for its riches as some sort of misunderstood romantic impulse, when it would be easier to just admit the man wants to be rich.
Wells, who inherits a successful business from his father in the early 1990s, is driven, in Trumpian fashion, to go for big risks. He teams with a down-on-his-luck but brilliant geologist (Edgar Ramrez) and soon the pair have got Indonesian villagers drilling in a valley because they know thats where their future awaits, malaria be damned.
Back home in Nevada, Wells has a group of salesmen wearing loose ties who hang around the bar all day, ready to make phone calls to easily hoodwinked investors. And theres also Bryce Dallas Howard, who must win this years award for Most Thankless Wife (Girlfriend?) Role of the Year. I honestly cant remember a damn thing she does in this movie except look worried from time to time.
Well, eventually they hit the motherlode and that means a soaring stock price and interest from New York firms that want to partner in the extraction and movement of what might be the biggest gold strike in decades. McConaughey and Ramrez are very charismatic actors, so these scenes of boardroom bravado are entertaining to a degree. Wells wheels and deals to some groovy soundtrack funk which was really a breath of fresh air when Steven Soderbergh made Out of Sight in 1998 but theres almost a Saturday Night Live-esque parody to these sequences. It isnt just because McConaughey has extreme male pattern baldness and a rotund middle, but its the strangely uninteresting nature of the story thats being told. We can observe from a distance, but it is extremely difficult to care.
Unlike The Big Short, another movie Gold so very much wants to be like, Gaghans script (co-written with Patrick Massett and John Zinman) zooms through the complex business developments that cause such consternation for our main characters. Sure, Indonesias Suharto government sending in armed men to nationalize the dig is a moment that clicks, but the other negotiation sequences do not have the same resonance.
Naturally this all leads to a third-act twist, and I wouldnt want to be the one to spoil the movies most interesting nugget. It is humorous to point out, however, that this film, born from the repercussions of a great fraud, enters the marketplace as being based on a true story. Cursory research shows that there are only trace elements of what actually happened (the Bre-X case, as it is called). There are parallels to McConaugheys and Ramrezs characters, but it is hardly a one-to-one. Did the real Kenny Wells figure accept a golden pickaxe statue as a culmination of a lifes work and give a rapturous speech about the ecstatic qualities of metallurgy? We can only hope so, because that scenes absurdity is pure gold.