Brandon Richardson | 12/01/2016
The business drama genre has seen quite a few notable entries in recent times, often showing us profit-hungry protagonists undone by their own greed. Stephen Gaghan’s Gold delivers the somewhat refreshing, yet ultimately underwhelming, tale of a man who is driven not only by money but an unshakeable pride in his business.
The film is a dramatised retelling of the Canadian Bre-X scandal of the 1990s, and follows the story of Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a struggling prospector who is desperately trying to keep his small family mining business alive. In a fortunate moment of inspiration, he reaches out to geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), with an inexplicable compulsion to scour the jungles of Indonesia for gold. Leaving his partner Kay (Bryce Dallas-Howard), Kenny gives up everything in this last-ditch attempt to hit it rich. After weeks of tireless work battling the forces of the jungle and mounting financial pressure, the duo discovers they have stumbled onto the biggest gold find of the century. The massive find turns out to be a bigger problem than first thought, as Kenny fights Wall Street investors and corrupted politicians to keep control of the mine within his business. At the same time, the “too good to be true” feel, coupled with brief flash forwards to Kenny seemingly being interrogated, maintains a sense that their newfound success could come crashing down at any moment.
Without doubt, the shining star of this film is McConaughey, who gives an enigmatic and quirky performance reminiscent of his brief appearance in The Wolf of Wall Street. McConaughey uses that charisma he has become known for to turn the chubby, balding, eccentric Kenny Wells into a character that we are both amused and charmed by. His plight seems somewhat more relatable than the exercise in excess seen in other business dramas such that, even after a brief indulgence in those typical high-life vices, we are still sympathetic as his fortunes rapidly turn to failures. This is complemented by an earnest relationship portrayed by his co-star Dallas-Howard, who delivers a solid performance. On the other hand, Ramirez gives a stony performance that sometimes comes across as suspicious (as likely intended) but at other times seems lazy, leaving us craving more Kenny Wells anytime he is not onscreen.
Gaghan has combined with writers Patrick Massett and John Zinman to give us a film that is relatively well-constructed but a little unevenly paced. A slow start in the lead up to the gold strike is compensated for with what feels like a rushed aftermath of success. However, the sheer implausibility of the tale along with some clever foreshadowing keeps us sufficiently intrigued in what might otherwise be a stale and predictable story. Unfortunately, the final scene delivers a moment of ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake, which comes across as ineffective and illogical and leaves a sour aftertaste to what was an enjoyable film.
Stephen Gaghan’s Gold gives a somewhat refreshing take on the classic hitting-it-rich tale, but Matthew McConaughey’s engrossing performance as Kenny Wells will be remembered for far longer than the film itself, and makes it worth the admission price.