“When you sell your dream, what do you have left?
Deep within the lush jungles of Indonesia lies an untouched goldmine, awaiting the arrival of a pair of greedy men to discover its secrets and exploit its mythical existence for the good of their wallets. Kenny Wells, in the form a chunky, balding Matthew McConaughey, has a prospecting legacy to live up to after his dad’s passing, but repeatedly falls short of success despite his best efforts. His situation becomes to dire that his company, Washoe Mining, has to move from an office building to a local pub. That is, until a dream comes to Kenny in the middle of the night, changing his life for better or for worse. After 11 years, Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) returns to the screen with Gold, the clumsy, drunken brother of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short.
Kenny, it seems, tells the story through a series of flashbacks, from the early days of his company to meeting the business partner with whom he strikes gold, a geologist named Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez). After experiencing a vivid dream that depicted the massive success he’d have if only he took a chance on Indonesia, Kenny wakes up the following morning to pawn off some of his most valuable possessions for a ticket to Jakarta to meet Michael. Despite looking like a damn fool, Kenny somehow manages to convince the more refined and suave Michael to join him on the risk and start digging, coming together as allies in being equally greedy and desperate.
So off they go, setting up camp in the middle of the merciless, malaria-riddled jungle, hoping to come home with gold to exchange for dollars. As a total dud, McConaughey is utterly convincing and watchable as usual, clearly enjoying himself as his heavier body is repeatedly displayed in all of its glory, as if to prove that this man worked very hard for this. After all, following his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, we are no strangers to the man’s commitment to getting the job done. However, it isn’t nearly enough to salvage a film that only reflects its protagonists’s foolishness. Despite Kenny risking everything, he is too naive to see through the fog, letting himself become a pawn in a game that is bigger than he anticipated.
The script, on the other hand, is sadly almost as unimaginative. Despite the gorgeous, lush landscapes of Indonesia, they aren’t nearly enough to distract from a direction that goes off the rails, only continuing to devolve into silliness as the story continues. Gaghan depends on an entertaining protagonist, the actor’s transformation, and letting the audience relish in Kenny’s rises and mourn his falls, but nowhere does he snap out of being predictable, seemingly comfortable in the company of cliches.
Come Christmas day, Matthew McConaughey is back and literally bigger than ever, only to accidentally prove that not all that shines is gold. Don’t let his burgeoning beer belly fool you — this is something you’ve already seen before. Gold is certainly a film that doesn’t take itself seriously, nor does it expect its audience to.