Say what you want about Johnny Depp’s chameleon-like ability to disappear underneath make-up and prosthetics to get into a character. Matthew McConaughey is right there with him (and maybe Christian Bale) as he shows in GOLD, based on the true story of the Washoe Mining scam in the mid to late 80’s. The names of the real players have all been changed, but the story pretty much is in tact. McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a mining prospector who works for his father (Craig T. Nelson) and never seems to be far from a glass of booze and cigarette. He has a dream of finding gold in the middle of the jungles of Indonesia and when I say “dream” I mean it literally comes to him in a dream. Wells takes this dream and runs with it, hiring one of the best miners, Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez). They could not be more diametrically different. Acosta is methodical and disciplined. Wells is everything but that and flies by the seat of his pants. Wells is most definitely a dreamer.
Wells and his partners come together at the local watering hole and cold call investors to scrape the money together in order to get the operation in Indonesia going. It is there Wells meets the barmaid, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the two fall in love. But Wells has one other love and it is gold and he will not be denied its luster and value. Wells is the salesman and Acosta is the muscle that keeps the workers going. But after a while their operation runs into trouble. Being short on cash and operating in a country that has a corrupt government is enough to bring any operation to a screeching halt. But Wells is not having any of it. But at home it starts to take its toll on Wells and Kay. Juggling all of this is almost more than Wells can handle. Forever the optimist, Wells fights on and with him, Acosta who seems to respect Wells for all of the qualities he is lacking. Acosta is introverted and rather distant; not a people person. Wells is the exact opposite and you know what they say about opposites.
There is a lot more of the plot that I am not divulging but suffice to say, GOLD is a well crafted film. It reminded me of American Hustle from 2013 about a bunch of scammers pulling one over on the United States government. Starring Christian Bale, it was an excellent film. While GOLD is not in the same league with American Hustle, it is a respectable film in and of itself most notably propelled by McConaughey’s performance. Beads of sweat forming on his forehead, scotch in one hand and a cigarette dangling from his mouth with ashes ready to drop, he looks like a guy held together with spit and a dirty ashtray. His energy he brings to the character is spectacular. He seems to be a cross between Hunter Thompson and a Fuller Brush salesman. Complete with a pot gut and balding he still oozes charisma and makes GOLD what it is.
Steve Gaghan who has mostly been a writer of films like Traffic and Syriana, tries his hand at directing and he seems to know what he is doing, despite some pacing issues in the beginning of the third act. The script is well polished by Patrick Massett and John Zinman who both are primarily writers of shows like Blacklist. They seem to have done their research on mining and have good eyes and ears for dialogue and how people interact with one another. I also got a kick out of Daniel Pemberton’s score which has some great 80’s tunes sprinkled throughout. Edgar Ramirez has been in some not-so-good films (remember the pointless remake of Point Break?) but he has managed to keep his head above water. In GOLD he is terrific as Mike Acosta. He is stuffy and a bit arrogant but knows a winner when he sees one. He can’t quite put his finger on why, but he believes in Kenny Wells and their dream. Bryce Dallas Howard is in a rather limited role and does fine with the material she is given, but her role is reduced to being “the girl”. I would have like to have had her role given some more depth.
GOLD came and went in theaters and the critical response was overall, negative. But, I enjoyed GOLD for what it was. This is a well acted, interesting and enjoyable real life tale about dreamers and the extent they will go to achieve it. It is not a perfect film and lack the real emotional punch of a film like American Hustle, but GOLD has enough going for it that I think people will enjoy watching McConaughey slip from scene to scene chewing up the screen and loving every minute of it. You can’t ask for more than that.
GOLD – ***3/4 out of 5
GOLD – Rated R for language, nudity, some brief violence and adult situations
GOLD – Run Time is 120 minutes
GOLD is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services. Check your local listings for availability and pricing.