D: Stephen Gaghan / 121m
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, Bill Camp, Joshua Harto, Timothy Simons, Craig T. Nelson, Macon Blair, Adam LeFevre, Frank Wood, Michael Landes, Bhavesh Patel, Rachael Taylor, Stacy Keach, Bruce Greenwood
Kenny Wells (McConaughey) is a struggling businessman trying to keep his father’s company, Washoe Mining, afloat. Working out of the bar where his girlfriend, Kay (Howard) works, Kenny’s efforts are proving fruitless. One night he has a dream of finding gold in the jungles of Indonesia. Inspired by this, and the recollection of having met a geologist, Michael Acosta (Ramírez), who works in the region, Kenny reaches out to Acosta and convinces him to go into partnership with him. Michael will find a drilling site, and Kenny will put up the funding (using every last penny he can muster). The gamble pays off handsomely: gold is discovered, and when the news reaches the outside world, there’s no shortage of people and companies willing to invest in the newly revitalised Washoe Mining.
The company makes billions overnight, trading high on the Stock Exchange. But soon, word reaches Kenny and his team that the gold find in Indonesia is a fraud. The gold hasn’t been mined, but is river gold, not of the same calibre and nowhere near as valuable. Also, Michael has disappeared, along with $164 million that he’s accrued by dumping stock over the past few months. The FBI become involved, and their investigation, led by Agent Jennings (Kebbell), has one all-important question to ask: was Kenny a part of the fraud or not?
Using the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal as the basis for its story, Gold is a cautionary tale of desperation leading to blind greed as everyone buys into the gold find and sees multiple dollar signs everywhere – and without looking too closely to see if it was all above aboard. In this version, the movie makes it clear: the signs were there but no one wanted to look at them. The message then is “be careful what you wish for”, or more appropriately perhaps, “all that glitters is not gold”. However, this message is all but buried by the movie’s focus on Kenny and his struggle to avoid failure. Kenny is not one of Life’s winners, and even when he does achieve success it’s short-lived. He’s a loser, grabbing at a last chance to honour his father’s legacy. This is all well and good, but in terms of the movie and the story it’s trying to tell, it’s not that compelling. Thanks to the combination of Patrick Massett and John Zinman’s drawn-out screenplay and Stephen Gaghan’s static direction, Gold doesn’t trade in any expected highs and lows, but instead, maintains an even keel throughout its two hour running time.
This leaves the cast, and the audience, with little to connect with. McConaughey gives a committed performance, putting on weight, shaving back his hairline, and adopting crooked teeth, but does his appearance add depth or nuance to the character? Sadly, the answer is no. The rest of the cast, even Ramirez, are left stranded by the script’s focus on Kenny, and they operate as satellites around his ever decreasing orbit. And no one is memorable enough to stand out. The bulk of the movie is set in 1988, but this doesn’t add anything either, and Gaghan’s efforts to add tension to the movie’s latter half also fall short of succeeding. Gold could have been about a combination of avarice and hubris bringing about one man’s particular downfall. Instead it comes across as a weak-minded morality tale where no one and everyone is to blame, and the only consequence to it all is a last-minute “twist” that undermines everything that’s gone before.
Rating: 5/10 – lacklustre in both design and execution, Gold benefits from some stunning location photography (with Thailand standing in for Indonesia), and a well chosen soundtrack, but otherwise fails to impress; a missed opportunity then, and a movie that doesn’t make much of an impact thanks to its undeveloped potential.