Movie Review: Gold (2016)
“Prove ’em all wrong”
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard
Synopsis: A down-on-his-luck prospector teams up with a geologist to find gold in Indonesia.
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Down-on-his-luck Kenny Wells not only figuratively grabs a tiger by the tail in Stephen Gaghan’s Gold, he literally pats one on the head to prove to the somewhat eccentric son of Indonesian President Suharto just how committed he is to the gold mine he and his partner have mined on his father’s land. His tenacity seals a deal which briefly makes him a multi-millionaire, and perhaps illustrates hidden depths lurking beneath his brash exterior. Wells is not a man – or character – who is easy to like or to trust. Is he an empty-headed braggart blessed with outrageous good fortune, or a driven businessman dogged by bad luck? A duplicitous con-man prepared to say anything to obtain what he needs, or a gullible mark exploited by those he trusts? To be honest, we’re not really any the wiser by the time the end credits roll, but we’ve had a reasonably enjoyable ride all the same.
Wells’ story is ‘inspired by true events’, which means it strays even further from the truth than films that are ‘based on a true story.’ It doesn’t matter either way as names are changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike. To be honest, Gold probably has more of a kick to it if you’re unfamiliar with the events on which it’s loosely based, otherwise you might feel disappointed by its apparent haste to wrap things up as quickly as possible once the scales fall from Wells’ eyes in the third act.
Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar, Free State of Jones) can’t be many people’s first choice to play a balding, pot-bellied drunk, but after shaving his head and gorging on burgers and beer for the part, he fits the bill quite nicely. His commitment isn’t confined to altering his appearance, either: he’s the engine that drives the movie, and were it not for his presence, Gold’s problems might have been far more evident. In a hurried opening hour, the film fails to address just how Wells manages to run his deceased father’s prosperous oil company into the ground in just seven years. His finances are so bad, in fact, that he has to pawn his long-suffering girlfriend Kay’s (Bryce Dallas Howard – The Help, 50/50) watch to pay for a flight to Indonesia, where he somehow succeeds in establishing a partnership with geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez – The Counselor, The Girl on the Train). Despite finding the largest copper mine in South Asia, Acosta has been unable to secure backing to mine for what he believes is an equally lucrative stash of gold in the Indonesian jungle, and is just about desperate enough to accept Wells’ offer. Against apparently insurmountable odds, the two men succeed in finding enough gold to send the financial markets into overdrive.
Gold’s big strength for those of us unaware of the details of the story on which it’s based is that we are almost taken as much by surprise at a third act twist as most of the characters in the movie; only one late – and largely unnecessary – scene provides a clue for those who, unlike Wells, aren’t swept up in the delirious pace at which events unfold.
Unfortunately, there’s a fine distinction between a snappy pace and the story being so rushed that it feels as though its on the brink of spiralling out of control. Gaghan does manage to bring his first film in eleven years back from the precipice each time but only at the expense of the film’s rhythm. It’s an enjoyable watch, however, and is worth catching for McConaughey’s kinetic performance alone, but it’s one which many probably won’t want to see more than once.
(Reviewed 26th February 2017)