Matthew McConaughey sure loves to chase down the Gold, having done so twice before in Sahara and Fool’s Gold. With the first film to be directed by Stephen Gaghan in eleven years (Syriana being his last), the Traffic screenwriter’s newest endeavor Gold is a rags-to-riches-to-rags again treasure hunt story loosely based on the gold mining company Bre-X which reportedly sat on the largest goldmine in world history before being exposed as a fraud. Though based on true events, this isn’t a direct adaptation beyond the premise, leaving ample room for McConaughey to shave his head and act the Hell out of his role, somewhere between his charismatic schtick and bordering on chewing up the scenery.
Gaghan’s film plays fast and loose with the facts, changing the names and locations around but more or less encapsulating the same saga with a few crowd pleasing elements tossed in to round it out. The result is an average kid cousin to the recently released The Founder with a solid cast but only one performance by it’s lead actor that’s worth watching. Everyone else including Craig T. Nelson, Macon Blair, Stacy Keach and Bryce Dallas Howard get lost in the shuffle. It doesn’t help that Edgar Ramirez as McConaughey’s partner in crime more or less coasts on the same stilted role he played in The Girl on the Train.
Visually the film is of course overqualified, shot by Paul Thomas Anderson’s longtime collaborator Robert Elswit in 2.35:1 widescreen. Though the film does have many moments of scenic beauty, recreating the Indonesian jungle through various locations including New York, New Mexico and Thailand, this is mostly driven by close-ups of McConaughey’s face. Much like Syriana, the editing is all over the place and I have to believe some developing character threads were left on the cutting room floor as a flirtatious financier played by Rachael Taylor shares some sexy time in a hot tub before being dropped from the film never to be seen again.
Gold has enough ingredients in it to make for a captivating excoriation of the American Dream, as it were, but as is mostly left this critic feeling all but completely disengaged. McConaughey, who should take a break from doing these gold mining movies, is of course electrifying but he can’t carry the film alone with the only other actor Ramirez doing little to get out of McConaughey’s shadow. Another friendly suggestion, if he’s listening, is for Stephen Gaghan to go back to screenwriting and stay out of the director’s chair. Some people have the knack for writing good stories while others are infinitely better at transposing said stories to the cinematic medium. Between this and The Founder, you’re better off watching Michael Keaton for two hours.
- Andrew Kotwicki