Hot Take: Matthew McConaughey is great… the movie is adequate. What? Did you think I would pan it?
When you have a story “based on true events” starring Matthew McConaughey and it receives a limited release in December, you go in expecting Oscar caliber. The closest thing to Oscar caliber about Gold though is McConaughey’s performance as Kenny Wells, a prospector who has a dream there’s gold in the Indonesian jungle. Even that’s a stretch although McConaughey’s transformation from his normal look to balding and out of shape is almost as impressive as Christian Bale’s transformation for American Hustle a few years ago.
Gold tells a somewhat true story with most of the names changed and a number of creative liberties taken. Wells is the main character as his company is crumbling to the point where his sales team works out of a bar. He dreams of a gold strike in Indonesia which sparks his memory of a previous run-in with John Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) who spoke of the “Ring of Fire” and how he believed gold was littered throughout the jungle of Indonesia. Wells persistently seeks out Acosta and the two strike a 50/50 deal on whatever they find with Acosta leading the expedition and Wells raising the money.
Once they find gold, Wells becomes the focal point as success and money changes him and the people around him. This is where McConaughey’s “all-in” performance shines but the movie becomes secondary to his acting which hurts the film itself. It distracts from the actual story to the point where you might even be surprised by how the events of the film unfold. Afterward, when you think about it, you might realize that it wasn’t surprising at all. It was because you weren’t paying attention to the plot as McConaughey gleaned most of the attention.
What’s more surprising is the film was directed by Stephen Gaghan who directed Traffic and Syriana. Maybe the difference came in the fact that Gaghan didn’t write Gold like he did the previously mentioned films but instead the writing was left in the hands of writing partners John Zinman and Patrick Massett. The pair previously wrote Lara Croft: Tomb Raider so the lack of depth present in Gold should be unsurprising based on their previous cinematic work.
There’s plenty of entertainment to be found in Gold though. Thank McConaughey for that as he gives a performance that is almost Oscar-worthy but falls just short of contending for the gold because Gold isn’t a capable enough vehicle to drive Academy voters to his ballot box. If you go in thinking Gold shouldn’t be weighed against other Oscar nominees or even be considered an Oscar contender, Gold shines a little brighter although the find resembles pyrite instead of the precious metal the title suggests.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Alright, alright, alright! Another Winning Performance from McConaughey
It’s rare he misses, even when the film is slightly off-center.
- The ’80s
Gold captures the look and feel of the ’80s and gives the film authenticity even if the plot occasionally feels half baked.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- It Could’ve Been A Contender
The story of Gold is good enough to be developed into an Oscar contender. Unfortunately, the writing lacked substance and the film delivers an entertaining jab instead of a knockout punch. Many Oscar prospectors had this on their short list at the beginning of 2017 but this one never struck it rich.