When his mining company starts struggling due to the downturn in the economy in the 1980s, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) has a dream about finding gold in Indonesia. Teaming up with Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), Wells begins to mine for gold in Indonesia, but when the two strike it lucky, Wells finds himself riding the high of his newfound fortune and never thinks to question whether Acosta’s findings are actually real.
Directed by Stephen Gaghan in his first cinematic outing since Syriana in 2005, Gold struggles with some of the issues with pacing and clarity that similarly plagues Syriana. Although the film boasts an impressive cast – including Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Macon Blair and Edgar Ramirez – there are times when the film feels familiar and derivative of more wham-bam films that have gone before, including The Wolf of Wall Street.
Matthew McConaughey takes on another film about a character’s search for gold – after Sahara and Fool’s Gold – and although Gold is based on a true story, it is hard to shake the feeling that McConaughey is playing a character very similar to ones we have seen him play before, and weight gain, bad teeth and bad hair do not a character make. Kenny Wells feels like a combination between Ron Woodroof from The Dallas Buyers Club and Dallas from Magic Mike, which is a strange and not necessarily endearing combination, especially when he plays like a cheap version of Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street. Byrce Dallas Howard plays little more than arm candy, Edgar Ramirez turns on the charm and the mystique as Michael Acosta, while Corey Stoll and the wonderful Macon Blair are underused in supporting roles.
Patrick Massett and John Zinman’s screenplay is inspired by the story of Canadian mining company Bre-X Minerals Ltd, which went bust in 1997, but appears to have been highly fictionalised for the sake of a dramatic telling of the story. Although it seems that the pace of the film rockets by for the first half, it is in the second hour that the story falls over its own feet, and in not telling the story in any kind of linear fashion lessens the impact of the final act. As well as this, it is hard to shake the feeling that we have seen this film before, and it is more than a little derivative of Scorsese’s tale of corruption in the form of Jordan Belfort.
As director Stephen Gaghan never manages to tidy the film up and make it compelling viewing, and although there is a great yearn at the heart of Gold, the film gets too caught up with personal relationships that are meant to round out the characters, but never truly succeed. Bryce Dallas Howard, Macon Blair and Corey Stoll are completely underused in their roles, and there is a feeling that the audience never truly gets to know any character in the film, making it difficult to empathise with anyone in this messy rags to riches tale.
In all, Gold feels too derivative and familiar to work on its own. None of the characters are fully created on screen, with great actors underused and the rest playing a combination of roles they have played in the past. There is a great tale at the centre of Gold, but the story is never quite brought to the surface and buffed to a shine like it should have been.