Posted on January 26, 2017 at 5:30 pm
In “Gold,” People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive Matthew McConaughey has more fun playing a bald, overweight, often obnoxious character than we have watching him. The problem, as so often the case when stars produce their own vehicles, is that the movie assumes more affection for the character than it is able to generate. McConaughey plays prospector Kenny Walls (based on real-life goldbug John Felderhof — don’t Google him if you don’t want spoilers). The film, directed by Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic,” “Syriana”) is a rise and fall (and rise and fall and I won’t reveal which one he ends up on) story of a third generation prospector, always on the search for gold. A dream inspires him to go to Indonesia, where he teams up with a legendary specialist in finding gold, Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez), who takes him deep into the jungle.
They don’t have enough money. The workers desert them. Kenny gets malaria. The assay reports come back negative.
And then great news. They’ve struck gold.
And then the real challenge comes. The jungles of Indonesia are not nearly as treacherous as the jungles of Wall Street. Once the gold has been found, everyone wants a piece of the action. The qualities that made Kenny succeed in finding gold may not be the ones he needs to keep it. A smooth investment banker (Corey Stoll) and the head of the world’s biggest gold operation want Kenny’s mine. They have the resources to get the greatest value from it. They also have the resources to make life very, very unpleasant if he does not cooperate. When Kenny rejects the first option, the second kicks in.
There’s a lot going on here. There’s the relationship between Kenny and his girlfriend (Howard brings enormous warmth and intelligence to a one-dimensional role). There’s the bromance between Kenny and Mike, the search for gold, the struggles with the money people, the issues with Kenny’s original colleagues. Kenny speaks feelingly about the quality that unites all prospectors: the belief that something is there. So we are supposed to think of him as a loveable dreamer. But the movie keeps undercutting that by portraying him as selfish, not very smart, and not nearly as interesting as his buddy Mike or the characters played by Bruce Greenwood and Toby Kebbell. Flash forwards give away too much, too early. The film keeps panning for the gold of storytelling and coming up with lesser metal.
Parents should know that this film includes constant very strong and crude language, some peril and violence including guns and predatory animal, and illness, some disturbing images, drinking and drunkenness, chain smoking, fraud and betrayal.
Family discussion: Would you trust Kenny with your money? Should he have taken the deal? What should he do with the package he receives at the end?
If you like this, try: “The Wolf of Wall Street,” also featuring McConaughey