It’s not the least bit impressive for an handsome and talented actor to physically transform himself into something less conventionally attractive. Just because Matthew McConaughey, once hired to appear in films as not much more than a charming beefcake, now adds on some pounds, sports a hideous comb-over and a snaggletooth, doesn’t mean Gold is anything impressive.
It’s what he does with the role, and how the film responds when he is in front of the camera, that makes this story of hungry gold diggers so fun and captivating. McConaughey is Kenny Wells, a hard-luck prospector in the 1980s who finds a potential and literal gold mine in the depths of Indonesia. Gold then is both a jungle adventure and a corporate thriller, with McConaughey’s brio leading the way.
And thank goodness for McConaughey and the filmmakers love of him. That’s because everything else that doesn’t adhere to his dizziness, eccentric, loud, passionate performance then falls into familiar tropes. Directed by Stephen Gaghan, it’s an utterly common rags-to-riches story, with all the boons and blights that come with it. Beneath that story, there are few offerings of any troubling questions about the destruction of the natural world as a means of capitalistic wealth.
So perhaps we don’t want to think that hard about the consequences. The story is loosely based on a similar one of an actual Canadian mining company, but here the characters are fabricated and transported to the U.S. because, you know, The American Dream. It’s narrated by Wells’ character, which is a convention both convenient but also engaging, because McConaughey is quite the storyteller.
For the most part, however, Gold runs with more style than substance, a finely made movie that moves slightly above its genre conventions. When Wells find success, the story offers much more drama and excitement; opportunists flock, both personal and professional, to get a piece of the action, and scenes swell with necessary tension. Dallas Bryce Howard is Kay, Wells’ girlfriend, and gets much deserved screentime as problems arise.
Again though, it’s all about McConaughey. He livens up the film; when he isn’t on screen, it seems like no one knows what to do. Or maybe they just don’t care to.