Gold is one of those films that is fun to watch, but never quite settles into its own stride. The characters are fun and the plot serviceable, but it distinctly lacks a hook.
Allegedly inspired by true events, Gold follows Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) in his rise and inevitable fall in the gold mining industry. Wells inherits the family’s business after his beloved father passes away, and does kind of a crummy job running it. When his father was alive they were living the life of fancy offices and gold watches. Seven years later, the business is being run out of a local watering hole, and the gold watches are pawned for the one last chance at golden glory.
Wells spends his last cents tracking down geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez). This bad boy of the mining world (which somehow seems possible), has some pretty crazy notions of how to hunt the next big discovery. He has not hit gold yet, but a copper discovery put his crazy ways on the mining map. Acosta and Wells head into the Indonesian jungle, set up their equipment, and get digging.
Soon after the digging starts Wells contracts a terrible case of malaria. After the montage of illness and sweaty band t-shirts, Wells wakes up well again to the news that Acosta has hit the big one. This ragtag duo are now the owners of a gold mine, and things are about to get very interesting.
The film does take-off at this point and revels in the excess of 1980s new rich, but at the sacrifice of spending more time with the budding bromance between Acosta and Wells. In fact, Gold never quite settles on what exactly is the focus, or emotional anchor, of the film. The camera is preoccupied with McConaughey’s performance- and rightly so. He is having a lot of fun bringing Wells to life, but even though the man is charismatic, he is neither a hero nor an antihero. He is not a good enough man to root for, but I was not celebrating his demise either. Admittedly he is interesting to watch, but playing him off of Acosta or an antagonist would have given Gold the focus it needs to be a more engaging film.
Another minor issue within Gold is its female characters. Aside from the objectified ones, Wells encounters with his newly found riches, the only female character of note is Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard). She is Wells’s girlfriend, who seems to only exist so that Wells can explain mining to the audience without directly speaking to them. Instead he gets to tell Kay all of these basic concepts, and we learn his plans that way. She is the sounding board for Wells’s dumbed-down schemes. Kay is a woman with simple tastes. She works at a furniture store, and waits tables at the bar when she needs the cash. Kay does not have any aspirations to make it out of her hometown of Reno, and she likes it that way. Kay is painfully boring. And standing next to Wells and his BFF Acosta, Kay shrivels into a one-dimensional caricature of a person. This is not to say that Howard gives a sub-par performance, rather she is given nothing interesting to do.
Even with these issues, Gold was a fun film to experience. It was funny at parts, tense at others, and Wells is an interesting enough fella to carry the full film. More of a focus on the plot and more focus within the plot could have made this film great, but when looking at what we were given, it is pretty darn good.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Bryce Dallas Howard
Film Length: 121 minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2017
- Score - 5/105/10