If you’re looking for an option at the movies this weekend and you’re wondering about Matthew McConaughey in Gold…
Based on a true story but featuring a fake person, McConaughey is Kenny Wells, a prospector down on his luck. The inspiration is the Bre-X scandal of the 1990s, a Canadian stock scandal involving a fake gold mine. The only part of this the movie keeps is the fake gold mine. (I’m not even sure why Gold bothers with “based on a true story”, except that “based on a true story” can help a movie make more money.) McConaughey’s performance is inspired by his chest-thumping scene in Wolf of Wall Street. That was some weird, oddly compelling sh*t, and his work as Kenny Wells is also some weird, oddly compelling sh*t.
Which is not to say that the movie is compelling—it isn’t. Gold is like Six Degrees of Separation for “corrupt white guys cost everyone all the money”. It manages to be a knock-off of Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short, American Hustle, and Death of a Salesman all at once. We’re deep in derivative territory, and if it weren’t for McConaughey, it would be unwatchable. Even with him, though, it’s rough going.
Kenny Wells is a Nevada prospector who has gone bust when a dream leads him to Borneo and Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez, not exerting himself), a legendary geologist with a nose for gold. Kenny almost immediately gets sick, though, and by the time he comes out of his fever-daze, Acosta is claiming they struck gold. What follows is the same kind of rags-to-riches-to-rags tale we’ve seen before, in which money leads to a period of excess which in turn drives off everyone in Kenny’s life and unscrupulous Wall Street types descend, ready to take advantage, before it all collapses in on itself.
Gold looks nice, lensed by Robert Elswit (Nightcrawler, There Will Be Blood), but Stephen Gaghan’s direction is uninspiring. This is his first feature film since Syriana, and it feels like a chore, like he’s directing Gold because a friend called in sick at the last minute. Gaghan’s limp direction is matched by the script from Patrick Massett & John Zinman (the duo behind Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), which is so underwritten it’s almost useless. Kenny speaks in motivational posters, saying things like, “There’s no right or wrong, only hits or misses,” and Bryce Dallas Howard plays a long-suffering girlfriend character so pointless her name might as well be “Lackinanny Pointe”.
But even still, McConaughey’s performance almost saves it. He has made himself as physically unappealing as possible, gaining weight, shaving a bald spot into his hair, and sporting truly disgusting fake teeth, but his natural charm and compelling presence shine through anyway. Despite having no real personality beyond “played by Matthew McConaughey”, Kenny almost makes it as an interesting protagonist.
If Gold had anything to offer besides being a knock-off Wolf of Wall Street and Matthew McConaughey in a gross suit, it could be a nice little drama warning about the dangers of the American dream. Nothing new, but a cautionary tale worth repeating. As is, Gold is a rather lazy, underachieving movie that exists solely for Matthew McConaughey to test how weird he can get before people stop watching.
Attached - McConaughey leaving the gym yesterday in LA.