A forgettable film featuring yet another transformative performance from Matthew McConaughey.
Matthew McConaughey’s return climb from being the star of a string of forgettable (sometimes downright awful) romantic comedies to being one of the most serious and respected dramatic actors of his generation is one of the most interesting that the entertainment industry has seen in recent years. However, after winning an Oscar for his performance in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club and massive popular attention for his performance in the first season of True Detective, it’s seemed like McConaughey has been unable to recapture the same magic and critical acclaim with any of his films since his Oscar win.
With his two most recent live-action outings, The Sea of Trees and Free State of Jones, missing the mark, many have been hoping that Gold, the newest film from director Stephen Gaghan, might finally be another hit for McConaughey. Boasting yet another physically transformative lead performance from the actor as well, and focusing on an interesting premise based loosely on one the most notorious mining scandals of all time, Gold certainly has all the potential in the world to be that hit McConaughey has been waiting for ever since 2014.
Unfortunately, Gold never manages to feel quite as alive or vibrant as McConaughey’s performance, as the actor gives an admittedly stellar and pitch-perfectly pathetic turn as its protagonist, Kenny Wells. Instead, Gaghan’s film, which is being marketed almost as being a mining version of The Wolf of Wall Street, drags far too often to be a successful companion piece to Martin Scorsese’s seething, cinematic takedown of Wall Street power players.
With that being said, where Gold disappoints with its cliches and heavy focus on its tedious plot machinations, it almost makes up for with some reliably strong performances from not only McConaughey, but also his co-stars Edgar Ramirez and Bryce Dallas Howard. In fact, it’s when Gold shifts its focus and spends the most time on Kenny’s relationships with both Ramirez’s Michael Acosta and Howard’s Kay is when it feels the most vibrant and the most gripping.
Starting off with a flashback to when Kenny’s father was still alive and his family’s Nevada mining company was still a titan in the industry, Gold quickly flashes forward several years in the future, when both Kenny and his company have hit rock bottom following his father’s death. With he and his coworkers literally working out of a bar, Kenny decides to make the gamble of a lifetime when he journeys down to South America to meet with Acosta, who promises to make them both rich by mining a previously uncharted region in the Indonesian jungle. Armed with just enough funding to get by and not much else, the two quickly become an overnight success story in the industry when their endeavor literally strikes gold and they become two of the most sought after men in their respective circles.
For those not familiar with the true story that the film’s based on, what happens next may be considered a spoiler, so I’ll refrain from discussing any other plot details from here on out. To its credit, Gold does a fine enough job at bringing suspense and surprise to the numerous twists and turns it takes its characters on throughout too, even if none of them quite land with as much impact or force as Gaghan and Co. may have intended.
While Kenny Wells might not go down as one of McConaughey’s most memorable onscreen characters, that shouldn’t take away from the evident, serious work that the actor put into bringing him to life here. His chemistry with Ramirez’s Acosta provides the film with some of its best moments, and for Ramirez, who too often as of late has been stuck giving incredible performances in disappointing films, it’s refreshing to see him in a film that’s, at the very least, seemingly aware of his talents.
After already being in Pete’s Dragon and one of the widely considered best episodes of Black Mirror’s latest season, Gold rounds out what might just be the best year or so for Bryce Dallas Howard yet, as she gives yet another strong performance in this film. Gaghan wisely focuses heavily on Howard’s facial expressions whenever she’s on screen, and one of the film’s finest and most subtle moments comes near the end, when Gaghan literally places Howard’s striking blue eyes in the center of the frame, and lets the actress do the rest.
But despite all of those redeeming factors and the dedication of its lead stars, Gold fails to be as memorable as some of the starring vehicles we’ve seen from McConaughey in recent years due to the film’s uneven pacing and some seriously predictable musical and editing decisions.