Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard
Running time: 121 minutes
Aptly entitled, Gaghan’s Gold entices us with gleaming prospects going in, but delivers little else than an excavation of a shiny, stand-alone nugget in the form of a transformed Matthew McConaughey.
After running his father’s mining business into the ground, Kenny Wells (McConaughey) teams up with struggling geologist Michael Acosta (Ramírez) in the hope of striking gold in the dense jungles of Indonesia. But it soon becomes apparent that this true rags to riches story might just have more rags than riches.
On paper, Gold seems as appealing and extravagant as, say, an Indonesian goldmine deep in the heart of the Borneo rainforest. Headlined by one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood right now, Gaghan’s film should weave a complex, satirical narrative web of relationships, deceptions and betrayals. There is without question enough substance here to create something special. It is perhaps both ironic and disappointing then that in a story all about wealth, there is very little richness to be found here.
Instead, the film stumbles clumsily and shallowly over its potential gold mines – the relationships between Wells and the two-main people in his life: Acosta and Kay (Dallas Howard) – deciding from very early to focus almost exclusively on giving us the McConaughey show. Yes, the actor’s thicker waist and thinner head of hair signifies an impressive and startling transformation from Hollywood heart-throb to heart-slob, yet the film goes unnecessarily far to repeatedly remind us of this very fact; disappointingly choosing to neglect some truly intriguing potential narrative avenues in favour of what, for the most part, feels like nothing more than a show and tell in method acting. Put simply, Gold appears more bald than bold.
Far from being as assured and accomplished as it really should be, the film feels as though it’s torn between trying to bring something new to the table, whilst fearing to tread too far from the shadow of its stylistic blueprint – The Wolf – or Racoon in this case – of Wall Street. Kenny Wells – while not the cocaine-sniffing, prostitute obsessed ball of outrageousness we got with Jordan Belfort – has an equally potent addiction – pride. He is a simpleton with simple desires, channelling an almost Inigo Montoya loyalty to his father, who finds himself rolling with the corporate big boys. In his eyes, his self-proclaimed destiny of surpassing his father’s accomplishments sits atop any lure of wealth, future family financial stability and even his closest relationships. In its final third, Gaghan nicely leaves elements of Wells’ character steeped in deliberate ambiguity, but, by that point, the film’s extensive one-man-show character focus leaves almost everything else that has come before feeling heavily conventional, unexplored and unremarkable – screenwriters Masset and Zinman do nothing for New York investment bankers’ cinematic reputation by carving them 2-dimensionaly greedy and unlikable; and the predictable revelations in the film’s finale fail to hit the intended climatic heights.
Memorable only for the belly and the hairline, Gold is an interesting find if judged solely on its central performance. Unfortunately, everything else about it seems bland and forgettable. In a film that is so concerned about digging, Gaghan’s film certainly doesn’t dig deep enough.