By Jack Dignan
During Mathew McConaughey’s continuous efforts to physically transform his body in order to look as ugly as can possibly be, comes a film called Gold. It’s a true story with a cast full of a-list talents and an Oscar winning director. Granted, the Oscar wasn’t exactly for directing, but instead writing, and he did not write this film, but it’s a title worthy of advertising nonetheless. With all that said, Gold has everything it needs to be a success. “We found a gold mine,” yells Mathew McConaughey’s character at one point, something the producers of this movie surely thought when this thing was well into pre-production. Instead, it seems they merely found some neat looking rocks.
Kenny Wells (Mathew McConaughey) is a man dedicated to his cause. His father worked in the mining industry, capturing Kenny’s love for the job. Years after his father’s passing, however, the company has hit a low point. Kenny, now sporting a partially baldhead and an intrusive beer-gut, is severely in debt. He needs a way to get cash fast, the solution of which comes to him in a dream one night when resting with his girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard). Pawning what little possessions he has left, Kenny makes his way to the uncharted jungles of Indonesia with a struggling geologist, Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez), in search of one little thing… Gold. And would you believe me if I told you they found it?
For what seems to be a fascinating, shocking and uproar of a true story, Gold just doesn’t seem to know how to tell it. It’s divided into three separate adventures, the first of which showcases Kenny’s downfall and struggle to seek out his much-needed gold, nearly killing him in the process. This is what compromsies the film’s first act, one that’s interesting if not poorly and choppily executed. It’s all over the place, tonally jumbled and opening three too many times, yet simultaneously interesting. For everything it does wrong, it also does something really well, providing us with yet another display of just how good an actor McConaughey is, and even how good Edgar Ramírez can be when he’s not in pointless remakes.
What follows the first act is an hour of celebrations, booze, business meetings and relationship dramas, featuring much more of McConaughey’s ugly-a-fied body than you’d probably want to see. It’s much more tonally focused, backed up with a soundtrack of classic songs that don’t really need to be there and never last long, always cut short in the most awkward of ways, yet they’re mildly catchy in the moment. Not much of any importance happens during this hour, merely the causalities of becoming rich, but in similar vein to other party biopics like The Wolf Of Wall Street, it’s fun. This isn’t me saying it’s on the same level as Wolf of Wall Street was, as those are two completely different films, but the party sequences feel like distant relatives.
We’re now an hour and a half in, the only thing that’s really been achieved so far is “hey, look how great finding a gold mine is.” Supporting characters come and go, few staying long enough to showcase much talent and none feeling as significant as they should be. Bryce Dallas Howard is, as always, excellent, but she feels underused and two dimensional, included for the sake of being included. Corey Stoll and Tobey Kebbell are fine, I suppose, but like everyone else in the cast, they simply do not have enough to do. Every scene they’re in requires them to give the exact same performance, never displaying range like with McConaughey or Ramírez (even if Ramírez is mostly forgotten about during the second half), which is of no fault to the performers but instead the script. Then Rachel Taylor comes along, and while I love Rachel Taylor when she’s in a good role, she’s wasted here.
When the third act finally roles around, or more accurately the second half of the third act, it couldn’t get here sooner. The plot, up until that point, had been missing that certain something to make it work. It just needed a little extra, and it finally comes. The film goes from playful, messy fun to a shocking reveal with devastating consequences. Lives are altered, the law gets involved and the story finally becomes fascinating. It’s still a mess, character arcs left unexplained and contradicting earlier actions, and the film ends more times than Lord of the Rings, but it’s this third act that’s easily the most entertaining of the lot.
Through all of its stupidity, plot holes, unexplained overlooks, lack of story and messy tone, shockingly, Gold has a lot going for it. It’s Mathew McConaughey who picks this film up out of the dirt and carries it on his shoulders, taking us on an interesting journey through the dangers of the jungle and up the mountain of success.
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