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Matthew McConaughey’s GOLD Doesn’t Have Enough Going for It (Review)

Matthew McConaughey’s GOLD Doesn’t Have Enough Going for It (Review)

In 2013, Matthew McConaughey underwent a physical transformation and teamed with Jared Leto for Dallas Buyer’s Club, a movie that helped me care about and understand the medical marijuana business. Oscars followed. In 2016, Matthew McConaughey has undergone a physical transformation and teamed with Edgar Ramirez for Gold, a movie that helps me to care even less than I already did about people attempting to find gold. Oscars are plainly desired, but seem a lot further out of reach this time.

It’s possible the Weinstein Company expects people to look at the poster for Gold, which depicts a jungle and the back of McConaughey (or possibly Ramirez; it’s uncertain) in Romancing the Stone-type clothing, and mistakenly think it’s a sequel to McConaughey’s 2008 action-comedy Fool’s Gold. Or maybe even a spin-off of the food-critic documentary City of Gold, which similarly posed its subject Jonathan Gold in promotional images. But Gold is as far from both of those as can be.

The film, a drama about two partners trying to find and pre-finance a place to mine for gold in Indonesia, packs very little action and no genuine romance, nor even a character you particularly want to follow. On one level, I guess it’s a good thing that The Weinstein Company didn’t feel the need to “Hollywood-ify” this true story to the end of making the protagonist sympathetic, or even (in wrestling parlance) a cool heel. McConaughey’s Kenny Wells is a greedy, sloppy, careless alcoholic who isn’t particularly nice and never gets better. Nicolas Cage could possibly have had a ball with the role, but McConaughey, who says he was drawn to the character immediately, doesn’t effectively communicate that love for the part.

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What the star seems to be prioritizing here is his physical transformation—read: looking as ugly as possible. He sports a glued-on Trump combover atop his shaved head, a pot belly that looks like a prosthetic, and a way of contorting his face that I presume is based on real-life photos. As best I can tell, the character is a composite, based to some degree on Bre-X Minerals founder David Walsh. Ramirez’s character Michael Acosta is based on a Filipino geologist Michael de Guzman; this casting choice of Venezuelan Ramirez to represent a Filipino figure smacks more of laziness in looking at surnames than deliberate race-blindness, but still isn’t good.

Given all the liberties being taken across many key elements of the story, you’d think the filmmakers could push things a little further and maybe amp up the entertainment factor. Curiously, they do not. I’m not sure how they thought the story of an unskilled, incompetent, unlikable profiteer would appeal to audiences in this time of great economic uncertainty; maybe the idea was that we’d point and laugh. More likely, the Weinstein Company imagined they had the next The Big Short on their hands (indeed, Christian Bale was attached at one point). But that movie worked because it explained a problem all of us wanted to understand; the percentage of people screwed by investing poorly in gold is relatively tiny compared to those hit by the 2008 recession.

On the plus side, Bryce Dallas Howard is at her best as Kenny’s long-suffering girlfriend, and Stacy Keach once again nails his role as the Ominous Businessman. But it’s the McConaughey show first and foremost, and while he made clear in the post-screening Q&A that it’s very much the movie he wants to see (he also produced), it is not the one most people are going to want to see him in.

Rating: 1.5 of 5.

1-and-a-half-burritos

Images: The Weinstein Company


Luke Y. Thompson is a member of the L.A. Film Critics’ Association, and not the man with the Midas touch. But he has a Twitter.

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