Saturday, 4 February 2017


This review is going to venture into spoiler territory. I really tried not to, but a lot of Matthew McConaughey's good acting comes into play about ten minutes from the end of the film.

Matthew McConaughey has had a good run over the last five years. He has successfully rebranded himself as a serious actor who is able to handle fare that is outside the surf-rom-com flicks that made him famous. Because of this turnaround, I think that there is a lot of unwarranted pressure for every performance he gives to be bigger and better than the last. While the performance in Gold isn't his best, the character he plays is very captivating and surprisingly original (only partly original, but I'll get to that).

Kenny Wells (McConaughey) is an unlucky businessman whose family has been in the prospecting business for four generations. After his family business fails, he finds himself working out of a small bar in Reno, Nevada, trying to get backers on potential mining claims with little to no assurance that the sites he has chosen have any real mineral deposits. One night, he has a drunken dream about a geologist he once met and a potential claim in Indonesia. Pawning all the gold he has, Wells hopes on a plane to Indonesia to hunt down Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez), the geologist from his dream. Together they journey into the jungles of Borneo and and stumble across the biggest gold find of the decade.

It really made me happy that Gold was pretty original. While it is based on an actual tale that happened in Indonesia in the early 90s, only key elements are really taken from that and even then things have been changed. The first half of the movie is definitely the strongest part. It is a fun jungle adventure with hints of Apocalypse Now, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. It is as if director plucked the essence of the jungle scenes that appear in those movies and used it to lay a familiar setting that we can feel comfortable with. The other good part comes at the end of the film, where it turns out that there was no gold claim at all and Acosta just faked the fact that there was a deposit where he said there was. He did this through a con called salting (it's pretty cool). Not only is this twist and the end of the film pretty awesome (the whole time we're assured that there is gold), but McConaughey is amazing as a man who has just been betrayed by someone who he thought was his best friend. The movie starts out with what we think is narration by Wells, but we learn at the end is actually an FBI interview to see if he is guilty of fraud.

Gold really struggles during the middle and lead up to the twist reveal. It switches from not quite adventure movie to slow business drama. There's a lot of talking about who to sell the gold to and people taking advantage of Wells. It becomes really quite boring. There is an imitation of The Wolf of Wall Street as we see Wells claw his way back to the top, but we've seen that in countless movies before and since then and this doesn't add anything new. There are countless supporting characters who get lost in the mix and it's quite disappointing considering the fact that they are played by well known actors like Stacy Keach and Corey Stoll. These actors are wasted talents in this movie, especially Bruce Greenwood, who at least tries to stick out with a decent South African accent, but is hampered by having only three scenes in the movie. I will praise Toby Kebbell however, for his tiny role as the sympathetic FBI agent.

While Gold has some good elements, it focuses on all the boring parts of the story. The relationship between Wells and Acosta gets buried by focusing too much on the business side of things, which while helpful in setting up the twist, is a tiring time to get through. Stellar performances from the three leads (McConaughey, Howard, Ramírez) are cancelled out by the many mediocre ones.

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