Matthew McConaughey stars as Kenny Wells, a businessman who is down on his luck and desperate for a break. He learns of Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a geologist who believes there is gold to be found in the jungles of Borneo, Indonesia. The two set on a journey into the uncharted territory and make a discovery that will transform their lives.
Being an Academy Award winner doesn’t guarantee you a successful career thereafter, and Matthew McConaughey has been rather unfortunate in that two of his most recent movies, The Sea of Trees and Free State of Jones, bombed at the box office. He’s been doing better providing his voice to animation at least, with both Kubo and the Two Strings and the more recent Sing having a grand aul time at the BO. At that, what Gold reminds the viewer is of the sheer talent of McConaughey.
With his receded hairline and beer belly, he’s evidently looking very different to what we’re used to (and obviously his weight went to other extremes for his Oscar-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club), but McConaughey is far from reliant on his looks to convey this eccentric character. He commands the screen with an unashamed self-confidence that somehow never falls into unattractive boastfulness. He has our complete attention – and he knows it – and damn, is that a joy to watch. Moreover, there are a number of moments of humour that are just stamped with McConaughey’s particular brand of acting which again remind you that he is undeniably a star.
Wells’ relationship with Acosta is another attractive element of the film. Their almost-friendship and ever-changing power dynamic is fascinating to watch and Ramirez brings an intriguing intensity to the role. We also have Bryce Dallas Howard in the cast, who really shone in recent Netflix series Black Mirror, and who here plays Wells' waitress girlfriend Kay. Unfortunately, Howard is given little to do in Gold other than providing the obligatory love interest, and is alternately excited and concerned for Wells as the narrative requires. Howard, who was also incredible in The Help but had another flat role in the recent Jurassic World, deserves more.
Clearly Gold is riding on the back of successes like The Big Short and Wolf of Wall Street. It’s no coincidence that McConaughey starred in the latter, plus montage and split screen are used to evoke the fast-paced and exciting nature of banking. There is even a scene at the start of the film in which Wells uses Kay’s handbag to explain how discovering gold works, which recalls scenes of The Big Short using poker and Jenga to explain the complexities of banking.
Whether or not we’re tired of these kinds of movies is up for the individual viewer to decide. In any case, Gold severely falters in its latter half. There are certain commentaries which could have been delved into further, and the final act feels very rushed. The ending comes swiftly, dramatically, and out of nowhere, in a way that feels clumsy rather than intentional. At two hours in length, the film is also too long and could easily have had between ten and twenty minutes cut off around the middle. Overall, this is the movie to remind you of McConaughey’s talent, but it should be far from his swan song.