Starring Matthew McConaughey. Rated 14A
Matthew McConaughey goes the Johnny Depp route for Gold, gaining weight, losing hair, and sporting ill-fitting crooked teeth.
This trick helps him find a different voice than that of the glib hustlers he usually plays. But he tries on too many hats, shuffling from lovable rogue to desperate loser and then comic foil, depending on the needs of individual scenes—which initially amuse but don’t add up to anything coherently entertaining.
The famously casual leading man plays Kenny Wells, a down-on-his-luck mineral prospector loosely based on the principals of Bre-X, a Canadian mining company that went belly up in 1997, after one of its geologists did a swan dive from a helicopter crossing the Indonesian jungle. He was reacting to the fraud bubble that burst for investors in what truly was an incredible gold strike in that region—but let’s forget that bit, okay?
Via screenwriters Patrick Massett and John Zinman, director Stephen Gaghan (who helmed the much more complicated Syriana) moves the action a decade earlier, to change some particulars and, presumably, to get more of an American Hustle vibe. That also gives it some qualities in common with The Wolf of Wall Street, but Gaghan’s direction lacks basic crackle or even a clear attitude towards its “greed is good” antihero.
His ’80s-themed music cues manage to be both obvious and oddly off the mark, just as the film’s editing often feels clunky and repetitive.
The two-hour effort is ambitious (the mining scenes were shot in Thailand) and filled with incidental characters. But few of these connect with the audience or each other. Bryce Dallas Howard likewise packed on some De Niro–esque pounds to play Kenny’s girlfriend or wife or something, but she mostly just pouts while he heads off on his latest hare-brained adventure.
The dude’s real love affair is with rugged, multinational miner Mike Acosta, played by Venezuelan up-and-comer Edgar Ramírez. But this, too, is thin stuff for viewers, who may find that this Gold rubs off all too easily.