Film Review – Gold (2017)

When discussing Kenny Wells, the real-life gold prospector and subject of the movie Gold, Mathew McConaughey said that he was the favourite of any character he as ever played. McConaughey introduced a recent screening of the movie in London stating that found himself getting lost within the character more than at any other time in his career. Perhaps because he spends most of his time drinking beer and taking in the pleasant surroundings of the Indonesian countryside, it’s not hard to see why McConaughey enjoyed the process of making this movie quite so much. With its blunt half-critique of capitalism and smug narrative, it’s unlikely that many audiences will draw quite so much enjoyment from this story of struggling company that struck gold and struck it rich, before collapsing.

Wells, a hard-pressed, unlucky businessman has inherited his father’s mining company and, determined to live up to the man’s looming legacy, goes for broke with a last-ditch attempt to score big in Indonesia. With the help of veteran geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), Wells finds an apparently untapped gold deposit in the Indonesian wilderness. The score, the biggest in history, makes Wells a celebrity overnight and saves an ailing business being run out of a dive bar. But the find, which eventually involves lawyers, bankers and tempting buyouts from multinational mining corporations, is a complete fraud, with Wells discovering that not all is as golden as it seems.

A potentially very interesting story, one of greed, deceit and corruption all the way up to a state level, is ruined by a muddled telling that never quite knows how to frame its characters. Attempting to ape the recent success of Wolf of Wall Street, Gold races along with a kind of sub-Scorsese aesthetic that feels clichéd and forced. It helps not at all that McConaughey’s wheeler-dealer is about as charming as a high street charity ambassador or that a jumbled conclusion seems to suggest that nobody, not one of these thieving miscreants, appears to have learned anything of value at all.

Bryce Dallas Howard, as Wells’ naively bedraggled and long-suffering wife, has the most thankless role in recent cinema history. Required to do nothing more than act as a glorified clothes horse, she must have three lines of dialogue in the entire two hours of the movie. Perhaps, like Wells, she was attracted to a big payday or the idea of something more magical than she would eventually end up with.

A McConaughey vehicle that is perhaps best explained as another shot at personal gold for McConaughey in the shape of an Academy Award, this is not much more than conceited showboating.

★★1/2| Chris Banks

Drama | USA, 2017 | 15 | 3rd February 2017 (UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Stephen Gaghan | Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Tony Kebbell