UK Release Date: 3rd February 2017
Runtime: 121 minutes
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Writer: Patrick Massett, John Zinman
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Macon Blair, Toby Kebbell, Stacy Keach, Joshua Harto
Synopsis: A downtrodden businessman tries one last roll of the dice and puts all of his remaining cash into a hunt for gold in Indonesia, which pays off when he and his business partner strike it lucky.
A few years ago, Matthew McConaughey‘s return to favour was one of the big stories in Hollywood. The ‘McConaissance’, as it was dubbed by many, led the star from leaning on people in romcom posters to winning the Oscar for Best Actor for his great work in Dallas Buyers Club. He has since become something of a chameleon, renowned for undergoing intense physical transformations for his committed performances in weighty, prestige drama films. Gold is no exception, with McConaughey growing a sizeable beer gut and sporting a wispy, receding hairdo to become Kenny Wells – a desperate businessman taking one last punt to find gold.
Kenny Wells (McConaughey) is a luckless prospector who employs equally down on their luck staff, desperately in search of a big find, while his girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) works as a waitress. At the end of his tether, Wells links up with old friend Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez), who has a plan that could lead him to gold in the untapped forests of Indonesia. The two men are lucky enough to discover gold and are approached by the likes of investment banker Brian Woolf (Corey Stoll) as their finances soar. Eventually, though, cracks start to appear and Wells finds himself under investigation by an FBI agent (Toby Kebbell).
McConaughey’s performance is all Syriana director Stephen Gaghan has to work with here. The actor appears in almost every frame and is delivering a performance of blood, sweat and tears. If they gave out Oscars for effort, then McConaughey would be sweeping the board at this year’s awards season. Unfortunately, however, McConaughey’s gurning and physicality is thrown out in the mix of an insipid, empty film that leaves it looking utterly irritating. When everything else is minor key, it’s baffling why McConaughey is playing things so huge. It just doesn’t work.
The obvious comparison point for Gold is clearly The Wolf of Wall Street – a film that had oodles of kinetic energy and radiated momentum and excitement from every scene. This film is nearly an hour shorter than that movie, but it limps along in truly soporific fashion – like a decaff version of what Martin Scorsese managed to do. There’s no sense of charisma to any of the characters and the bizarre framing device of the FBI investigation robs the story of any notion of forward movement.
There are also severe problems with the supporting cast members here. Bryce Dallas Howard is almost purely ornamental in a role that it seems the writer was only able to recall when strictly necessary and Édgar Ramírez spends the entirety of Gold looking about as excited as a punk at a One Direction gig. This is McConaughey’s show and, as hard as he’s trying, that isn’t enough to elevate the unimaginative plot and inert visual style.
Gold isn’t the worst film that has arrived on screens this year and it’s always exciting to see an actor really pushing themselves physically. However, Gaghan doesn’t have a story to match the performance and McConaughey seems as if he’s just about the only person on screen who even slightly cares about whether the film turns out to be any good. There’s a scene halfway through the movie where a character refers to McConaughey’s suddenly successful chancer as being akin to a “drunk raccoon”. That’s exactly the right characterisation, I think. This is The Drunk Raccoon of Wall Street.
Pop or Poop?
Matthew McConaughey is working incredibly hard in Gold and he deserves to be commended for that degree of effort. However, Gold is a desperately mediocre film that doesn’t have an exciting bone in its body. Supporting characters are unforgivably sidelined and the story is one that has been told in much more convincing and interesting fashion before. This not only isn’t gold; it doesn’t manage a podium finish.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.