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Gold Movie Review

Gold (2016) movie poster Gold

Theatrical Release: December 30, 2016 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Stephen Gaghan / Writers: Patrick Massett, John Zinman

Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Kenny Wells), Edgar Ramirez (Michael Acosta), Bryce Dallas Howard (Kay), Corey Stoll (Bryan Woolf), Toby Kebbell (Paul K. Jennings), Bill Camp (Hollis Dresher), Joshua Harto (Lloyd Stanton), Timothy Simons (Jeff Jackson), Craig T. Nelson (Kenny Wells Sr.), Macon Blair (Connie Wright), Adam LeFevre (Bobby Burns), Frank Wood (Scottie Nevins), Michael Landes (Glen Binkert), Bhavesh Patel (Bobby Owens), Rachael Taylor (Rachel Hill), Stacy Keach (Clive Coleman), Bruce Greenwood (Mark Hancock)

 

Ordinarily, it is easy to distinguish end-of-year movies from beginning-of-year ones. Those seeking the prestige of awards tend to open small around Christmas and then expand in January.
But The Weinstein Company took that practice to an extreme in 2016-17 with qualifying runs for films that weren't playing anywhere else until late January. The first of these -- the Ray Kroc biopic The Founder -- opened last week to good reviews and modest returns. It seems a safe bet that the second -- Gold, another fact-inspired drama driven by a strong lead performance -- offers a repeat of that this weekend.

Gold opens in 1981 Nevada, with prospector Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) riding high in a flourishing business run by his father (Craig T. Nelson). Dad dies and seven years later, Kenny's business isn't doing so well. Then, an idea comes to him in a dream: he is to dig in an area in Indonesia under the guidance of the suave and seasoned geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramνrez). Challenges abound there, as workers threaten to leave and Kenny, who is maxing out his credit cards on blind faith, gets stricken with malaria.

In "Gold", prospector Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) and geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) go digging for gold in the wilds of Indonesia.

But it all pays off even better than Kenny could dream it, with the biggest discovery of gold in a decade. Soon, businesses who wanted nothing to do with Kenny are begging to invest on his terms. He even gets courted by a New York firm (in a deal led by Corey Stoll).

In the tradition of films like The Wolf of Wall Street and War Dogs, Gold is a rise and fall tale. To say more would probably require spoilers and I fear I may have already crossed that line.

Directed by Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) and a TV-versed duo picking up their first theatrical credit since 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Gold is a compelling drama told with appealing period detail and a decent amount of flair. There is a true story, but it is merely the springboard for the screenwriters, who change nearly all the details. The film relies heavily on McConaughey, who redeemed himself a few years ago and hasn't looked back.

As in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey transforms himself physically. He gains weight, loses hair, and sports an unsightly set of chompers. There isn't the impact of the rail-thin AIDS patient that won him the Best Actor Oscar, and Gold plays up the angle a little too hard, with more scenes than it needs of Kenny in only his tighty whiteys. The fact is that many, if not most, men approaching 50 would be all right, all right, all right with looking like this.

A newly wealthy Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) shows his longtime girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) a good time in "Gold."

But though the receding hairline and protruding belly may smack of someone wanting another trip to the Oscar podium, McConaughey grounds this performance in sturdy dramatics,

getting you to sympathize with a guy with a dream as he gets rich and proud in a hurry. Ramνrez is good too in the deuteragonist part. Bryce Dallas Howard gets to remind us of women's fashions of the '80s in the somewhat underdeveloped role of Kenny's love interest. Meanwhile, Kenny's cronies are well played by guys who look and sound the part, guys who would have likely been earned callbacks on The Wolf of Wall Street.

Gold was eligible for 2016 awards, but it drew just two nominations, one from the dubious Hollywood Film Awards and a nod for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes. That and subpar advance ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes suggest this is Oscar bait that missed the mark, but that is not in line with the movie I saw, which is admirable and enjoyable not simply by January movie standards. Yes, this production would have welcomed Oscar nominations and that is why it had the qualifying run. But though a bit slow at times, the film definitely hooks you and keeps you invested with its completely unknown and relatively unpredictable story.

The Globes-nominated titular song, performed by Danger Mouse and Iggy Pop, is just one of several needle drops catching your attention here. Others include seemingly new covers of Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" and Eric Burdon & War's "Spill the Wine" and original period tunes by New Order. Gold doesn't push its era too hard, choosing to let it enrich the story rather than drive it.

With all that glitters in Gold, it is important to remember that only shooting stars break the mold. Stars like Matthew McConaughey.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: The Founder • Patriots Day • Silence • Live by Night • Elle • 20th Century Women • Toni Erdmann
Matthew McConaughey: Interstellar • Dallas Buyers Club • The Sea of Trees • The Paperboy • Amistad
Edgar Ramirez: Joy • The Girl on the Train • Hands of Stone
Bryce Dallas Howard: Pete's Dragon • Jurassic World • Hereafter • The Help
The Wolf of Wall Street • War Dogs • The Big Short • Goodfellas • Wall Street • Traffic

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Reviewed January 27, 2017.



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