by Sam Robinson
Rated M. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by Stephen Gaghan.
Matthew McConaughey has well and truly moved on from his heartthrob status of years past. In Gold, McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a pot-bellied, balding, smoking businessman who will stop at nothing to strike treasure. In fact, he plays the character with such power and passion that everything else about this film finds itself lost in the background.
The story takes us to Nevada, where Wells inherits a business from his father, and decides he wants to chase a (literal) dream to drill for gold in a far-flung place, Indonesia. Teaming up with geologist Michael Acosta (Ramírez), Wells makes that dream a reality with the help of a village or two of Indonesian locals. Back in the States, the story aims to replicate the furiousness of The Big Short, as stocks are sold and investors buy into the discovered bounty.
There is plenty to like in Gold – in particular McConaughey’s hefty performance and the way that Gaghan (Abandon, Syriana) has captured the jungles of Thailand (a stand-in Indonesia). But there are many problems beneath the surface, including a ho-hum script, confusing twists and turns that undercut the emotion, and a narrative that confusingly starts flashing forward half-way through the film. Gold ends up feeling like a Best Actor plea with not much else to hold things up.
Kenny Wells refers to himself and Acosta as ‘prospectors’. The image that comes to mind when I think of a prospector is a crazy plump bearded man with a pick ready to find some gold. And while Wells in some ways fits this description, he explains a prospector as someone who holds ‘the belief it’s out there.’
‘I was being called. There was gold calling.’
As he travels the world seeking gold and wealth, Wells holds a level of belief that is a little dangerous. He allows a dream to guide his steps towards a distant place where he believes wealth and success lie. He is driven by success, and much like the character of Ray Croc in last year’s The Founder, this chase results in selfishness, broken relationships and isolation. The Bible teaches the dangers of chasing treasure – but it also shows that it takes faith to find the great treasure of God’s kingdom. Matthew 13:44 –
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Wells works hard to secure his golden treasure in Indonesia, but this pales in comparison to the joy found in following Jesus, and the treasure of heaven (Matthew 6:20).
The Verdict: Gold brings a solid performance from McConaughey but not a whole lot else glimmers. 3/5
Gold releases in Australian cinemas Thursday, 2nd February. It is already screening in the USA.