Gold

Mirroring the volatility in the commodities market, Gold doesn’t provide a satisfying return on investment for moviegoers.

Considering the rich potential in the source material, from the colorful characters to the adventuresome plot, this uneven true-life tale about a desperate prospector trying to turn a quick buck ultimately lacks luster.

The film takes place in 1988, following the fortunes of Kenny (Matthew McConaughey), an alcoholic who is struggling to save his family’s fledgling Reno-based prospecting firm along with his own relationship with Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) that began during better times.

Kenny’s desperation sends him to Indonesia, where he strikes a deal with a geologist (Edgar Ramirez) to mine some jungle land rumored to be among the top reserves on the planet. Their venture proves instantly profitable, with investors clamoring to get a piece of the action.

The successful partnership also yields fame and fortune that Kenny proves unable to handle, leading to a third-act twist that triggers an inevitable downfall.

McConaughey offers a committed performance that goes deeper than just a significant physical transformation — his character has a bloated belly, a receding hairline, and crooked teeth — by finding mild sympathy in an antihero generally driven by capitalist greed over compassionate sincerity. Ramirez also shines, although his character is shortchanged in terms of screen time and narrative relevance.

Such material would seem to be an ideal fit for director Stephen Gaghan (Syriana), who won a screenwriting Oscar for Traffic. Yet here he works from a script by the tandem of Patrick Massett and John Zinman (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) that too often plays it safe.

The story could have gone multiple directions, perhaps unspooling a gritty thriller about foreigners navigating political unrest or an insightful cautionary tale about uncertainties in the mining industry. But it glosses over those angles in favor of a more familiar story — complete with superfluous narration — of an eccentric dreamer whose personal demons and impulsive egotism lead him down a predictable path of comeuppance and redemption.

Along the way, Gold doesn’t make much of a case for emotional investment in the ethically challenged Kenny or his shady scheme. When given the chance, both fail to shine.

 

Rated R, 121 minutes.