Prospector Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) teams with a new partner (Edgar Ramirez) on a risky gold mine in Indonesia, and finds unexpected success. A drastic turn of events, which include a corrupt government, underhanded Wall St. investors, and the FBI, threatens to take it all away. Also stars Bryce Dallas Howard.
Directed by Stephen Gaghan.
You have to hand it to Matthew McConaughey - the man commits to a role. In Gold, McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a slimy character with questionable morals, a balding head, a snaggletooth, and about 30 pounds of extra body fat. He’s a gold prospector with the charisma of a used car salesman, and yet somehow, he has Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), a woman who loves him despite all of his flaws.
Kenny Wells is a pretty unsympathetic, unappealing character, but Matthew McConaughey manages to make him interesting and watchable. Thank goodness, because McConaughey is the best thing about this movie. Gold isn’t a bad film. It just is not the movie it could - and should - have been.
Written by Patrick Massett (Tomb Raider) and John Zinman ("The Blacklist"), and directed by Stephen Gaghan (Syriana), Gold doesn’t quite hit the mother lode. There are some nice nuggets, namely the performances of McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Edgar Ramirez (who plays his prospecting partner Michael). Unfortunately, the story plods along and fails to capture the tension and sense of adventure it needed.
It’s odd that the film as a whole is a bit of a misfire, considering the talent in front of and behind the camera. Gaghan won an Oscar in 2001 for his Traffic screenplay, and Massett and Zinman have produced some great television ("Friday Night Lights," "The Blacklist").
The story is presented partially in flashback, a technique that can kill the pacing if not done correctly. To a small extent, that is what happens here. It is used far more effectively when, at the end of the film, a character uses the technique to fill in some unanswered questions.
For all his efforts, McConaughey must contend with the fact that Kenny Wells is such an unsympathetic character, viewers will have a hard time rooting for him, or even care what happens to him. He manages to be his own worst enemy, and alienates both Kay and Michael at different points. McConaughey certainly makes Kenny Wells watchable. Just not totally likeable.
It should be noted that Gold is based on real events, but only technically. Kenny Wells is not a real person, and the events did not involve a prospector in Nevada, but a prospecting firm in Canada. Only some of the elements are similar, and the filmmakers would have done better to not even reference that is was loosely based on a true story at all. I personally found it frustrating that Kenny Wells was not a real person, as it made me wonder why the filmmakers didn’t make him a more appealing character and allow McConaughey to really let loose.
Gold boasts some great acting performances, including Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, and Stacy Keach in smaller supporting roles. Edgar Ramirez (Carlos) is fantastic as Michael Acosta, and Bryce Dallas Howard is near perfection as the long-suffering Kay. They make Gold a movie worth seeing at least once. You’ll just wish the story was as good as the performances. The old saying that starts "all that glitters is not..." certainly applies here.
The high-definition transfer is solid, even while the image has some desaturation and grain to give a vintage look. Detail is excellent and skin tones are consistent. Overall, a nice video transfer. The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HDMA mix, which isn’t particularly active, but it does have a nice balance and good clarity.
The extras aren’t plentiful, but include some nice featurettes and an audio commentary.
The special features include:
*Deleted Sequence. This sequence, made up of several smaller scenes, from early in the film, provide some nice character development. It touches a bit more on Kenny and Kay’s relationship. Running time: 5:18
*“The Origins of Gold” featurette. Director Stephen Gaghan, writer John Zinman, and writer Patrick Massett discuss how the film moved from development to production, including changes in director. Running time: 4:37
*“The Locations of Gold” featurette. Filming in Indonesia is explored here, and reveals how a rainstorm flooded and destroyed the set on the second day of filming. Running time: 4:20
*“Matthew McConaughey as Kenny Wells” featurette. McConaughey’s physical transformation into Kenny Wells, as well as his performance, is discussed here. Running time: 3:45
*Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, compatible with Ultraviolet and iTunes, is included.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Even with a solid McConaughey performance, Gold loses its luster
Gold is a great premise for a film, with fine performances all around. However, the movie plods along without the energy or urgency it needed. It’s worth watching once to see the performances from the film’s big three - McConaughey, Howard, and Ramirez.
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: R (language, sexuality, nudity)
Running Time: 120 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: Deleted sequence; “The Origins of Gold” featurette; “The Locations of Gold” featurette; “Matthew McConaughey as Kenny Wells” featurette; Digital Copy.
Audio Commentary: With director Stephen Gaghan
Label: Anchor Bay
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