Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Review: Gold

Cert: 15 / 121 mins / Dir. Stephen Gaghan / Trailer

And to gently ease our way out of the It's A True Story*1 rut that is the early part of each year, comes Mumblin' Matthew McConaughey in the guise of one Kenny Wells, a gold-prospector down to his last chance after the 1988 financial crash. Making a written-on-a-napkin deal with a half-remembered contact in Indonesia, the pair take a punt and manage to land themselves a literal gold-mine. What could go wrong?

Everything, naturally.

The jungle of Borneo is filthy and damp, the boardrooms of New York are polished and plush, and McConaughey comes across like a walking midlife crisis. For all the niggles I had with it, Gold is a fine-looking film. If only the same level of enthusiasm had gone into Patrick Massett and John Zinman's screenplay. The movie never becomes more than you expected it to be and in the first hour particularly, struggles to make it that far. As excited and distraught as the various characters get, it's hard to feel any genuine emotion for grown men slobberingly chasing an unreachable dream. And while the film highlights the vacuousness of that dream at every turn, it still doesn't have the bite to become a morality-tale, just a rather sketchy study of edacity, faith and delusions of grandeur*2.

Gold doesn't wield the wanton excess of The Wolf of Wall Street, or hold the narrative resonance of The Big Short, although it still shares that air of naivety and chaos in the face of a beast which can't be tamed: greed. It's not even that you find yourself willing Kenny to succeed, more that you're just wondering how hard he's going to fail. Because no story that starts out from a place of unashamed, capitalist avarice really deserves a happy ending.

While McConaughey's on the reasonably good form which is fast becoming his autopilot and Edgar Ramírez supports well but feels under-used, the best performance here may be from Bryce Dallas Howard as his long-suffering girlfriend Kay. It's certainly the only thing in the film which feels remotely real, at any rate. Meanwhile, everyone else is basically a placeholder; this is Mumblin' Matt's show. It's just not his best one.

For all its exuberance, Gold is a passable story, unremarkably told.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short, American Hustle.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Not unless you need to see McConaughey's paunchy, balding, wonky-toothed chrysophilist on a massive screen.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Well I'm not entirely sure what the film's setting out to do, so…

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well, no.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shouldn't imagine so.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This has got Toby 'additional voice-work in The Old Republic and yes that still counts' Kebbell in it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 The film's opening card which reads "inspired by true events" is about as loose a commitment to reality as you'll find in the film, not that it really matters for the story being told. [ BACK ]

*2 And no, the irony isn't lost on me that I used the phrase "delusions of grandeur" almost immediately after shoehorning the word "edacity" into the text. Snarky comments to the usual address, please. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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