It has been a long time since the McConaissance for film star Matthew McConaughey, who has consistently proved for some time now that just by showing up in a movie he can elevate any picture. From his extended cameos in films like The Wolf of Wall Street and Magic Mike, to carrying redundant material like Free State of Jones and We Are Marshall, McConaughey’s presence in any film is always welcomed. His latest movie Gold falls into the same category as Dallas Buyers Club for me, a flawed, problematic film, that is saved by a flamboyant, extravagant performance from an actor that you can’t help but gravitate too.
Gold, directed by Stephen Gaghan, follows a prospector named Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) on a quest to turn around his fortunes and find gold in the uncharted jungles of Indonesia in the 1980s. McConaughey physically transforms impressively into the role of a balding, overweighting, chain smoking man who is obsessed by the lure of gold. But what is even more impressive is not the physical transformation but rather how he plays the character. Even though the movie is set in the 1980s, you could imagine Kenny in the 1880s, going down mines with a shovel in search of the same gold. Kenny is a relic from a bygone era; he is motivated more by chasing his dream than he is of actual financial riches – a dream he is obsessed by, which creates much of the conflict in the movie when he starts to mix with savvy Wall Street businessmen. There Will Be Blood this isn’t, however, and instead we get a much more slick, Ocean’s 11 type of approach to this story. The fun of the hustle combined with McConaughey’s exuberant performance is where this film is at its best.
There are much better rise and fall stories out there and Gold suffers from glaring pacing issues and an unnecessary framing device. What starts off as a story being narrated by Kenny quickly manifests into something that surely had already been scrapped from earlier versions of the script and added nothing at all. A story told over multiple years could have done with a bit more thought in regards to the points in which it chose to jump from as well. As without explanation in one scene, characters motivations and personalities seemed to have been altered in an instant. This isn’t normally a problem when the transition of time is handled with more finesse than what is seen in Gold but it is a problem here.
The supporting cast is another reason Gold remained entertaining throughout; Edgar Ramirez does a great job as Kenny’s business partner. His relationship with Kenny is another highlight of the film and something the audience roots for much more than the film has actually earned, thanks to the chemistry between the two actors. Bryce Dallas Howard also manages to do some good work in a supporting role when she is given the screen time.
Ultimately, Gold is a film of performances that lacks any real substance, none the less it is always an enjoyable movie that moves along at an energetic pace with a towering performance by McConaughey at the helm. It also has a very interesting third act that contrasts strongly with that of the rest of the story that felt mostly generic.
Originally published on Jan 31, 2017 for UK Film Review.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Writers: Patrick Massett and John Zinman
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard and Craig T. Nelson