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Gold Review: McConaughey's Latest Is No Treasure

By Julian Roman — January 27th, 2017

Matthew McConaughey drops his chiseled physique for a beer gut in the fairly predictable Gold. The film is loaded with talented actors that play a distant second fiddle to the lead. Gold comes off as a vanity project for McConaughey. He is a tremendous actor with the awards hardware to prove it, but this performance is pure Oscar fodder. The weight gain, stringy comb-over, prancing around in tighty whities, there's a lot of ham on the bone here.

Gold takes place in the eighties. McConaughey stars as Kenny Wells, a gold prospector who's watched his family business flounder. He has a steadfast girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) who loves him dearly. Supporting his endeavors as their money flitters away. Wells, who drinks whiskey like water throughout, has a vision while dreaming. There be gold a plenty in the treacherous jungles of Indonesia. He seeks out geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), who had previously explored the area. Acosta at first thinks he's nuts, but is won over by Wells persistence and charm. The men embark on a journey that hits the mother lode, changing both of their fates in unexpected ways.

Gold follows a plot structure we've seen repeatedly in numerous films. Greedy man strikes it rich, turns into a jerk, plunges spectacularly into epic failure. Apart from the actual prospecting scenes, everything else feels like a stale retread. More screen time for the supporting characters would have solved this problem. Bryce Dallas Howard is completely wasted in this film. She's just the prop that supports Wells. It's never explained why she is loyal and love struck with this man. A deeper exploration of her character would have really shorn up this story.

Toby Kebbell, who costars as the FBI agent investigating Wells, is also wasted. Kebbell, in his brief moments of screen time, is as solid as always. Once again, the filmmakers needed to spend more time exploring his character. The situation that Gold depicts reeks of obvious criminality. Kebbell needed to be more than just the guy that Wells explains the story to.

I did get a kick out of the production design and costumes. The eighties look of Las Vegas and New York is spot on. The scenes of them actually searching for their treasure trove are quite realistic. Matthew McConaughey and Ramirez prospecting expedition is a messy, tropical disease laden affair. Bryce Dallas Howard's eighties big hair and gaudy clothing solicited a chuckle every time she pops up on screen. Her permed and fluffed coiffure bounces like a lion mane. It's a perfect foil to McConaughey' s baldness and paunch.

Coming from TWC-Dimension, Gold is based on a true story. The film has actual news footage that chronicles Wells story. I would love to take a more concerted look into the real event. It's illogical to me how someone like Wells, who came from a family of prospectors, been so clueless in his downfall. The film chalks it up to arrogance and hubris. That's entirely valid reasoning, but this character should have suspected that something was amiss. One aspect of Gold that I did wholeheartedly buy is the Wall Street suits being sucked in like flies to honey.

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