Another moderately predictable formula this awards season; transformative performance showcased in a by the numbers genre film. What genre you might ask, the white man wanting to make it big genre. Gold, inspired by a true story (but then aren’t they all these days) has similarities to The Wolf of Wall Street and a bit of The Social Network. Oscar winner McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Free State of Jones) is the only legitimate reason to see Gold. Weight gain, false teeth, shaved head, he is bursting on all cylinders as the ambitious salesman looking to get out of middle class. Director Stephen Gaghan returns to the big screen, eleven years after Syriana, but without gravitas or exceptionalism. The second film with “Gold” in the title for McConaughey, is an average drama that lacks adventure or suspense as it runs through the ups and downs of ambition.

Following in his father’s successful footsteps, Kenny Wells (McConaughey) risks his life and his last dime on the belief that Geologist Michael Acosta (Ramírez), can find gold in the jungles of Indonesia. It was called the largest gold find of the decade in 1979. The good news from Acosta helped Kenny recover from a serious case of malaria. He forms a company back in Nevada, debuts on the stock exchange, and all those years of people doubting his elaborate dreams and ideas come to an end when millions of dollars are within his grasp. Acosta helped sell the idea of investing in gold, as they raked in the money, it changed Kenny. His wife Kay (Howard) saw it first, but it becomes an infection for Kenny, the gradual growth of greed compels him to refuse a collaboration with international clients, the entire operation is pulled from under him.

McConaughey gives this roll all his got, and that’s in turn all the movie has.

McConaughey gives this roll all his got, and that’s in turn all the movie has. Ramírez (Hands of Stone, Joy) continues in these throwaway roles, when nearly everyone enthusiastically following his careers knows he is better than the parts he’s given/accepts. Except for one snarky little scene where Kay overhears something she wasn’t meant to at a bar, Howard (Jurassic World, Pete’s Dragon) is relegated to the uncooperative, uninvolved wife. The entire film rests on McConaughey’s blubbery belly and he takes it as far as he can, but it’s never enough. It’s a moderately interesting film, with a few surprises here and there but this performance piece doesn’t have the originality of other awards contenders.

Similar to another TWC awards season release – Michael Keaton in The Founder or another criminally focused movie like War Dogs, there isn’t anyone for the audience to root for. Always a problem narratively, the males featured in these stories are not only borderline criminals or detestable, but the viewer has a hard time identifying with these people or even hoping they make it out alive. Of course, it doesn’t help that McConaughey, an actor who gets tickets sold as much on looks and charisma as he does with talent, is playing someone who is anything but good looking or charismatic. Gold isn’t a satisfying film either, for a movie based on a true story, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Final Thought

McConaughey’s transformative performance is the single highlight in a rather ordinary genre film.


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