Stephen Gaghan (director)
121 mins (length)
03 February 2017 (released)
02 February 2017
When building a film around a showy, larger-than-life performance it's probably not a brilliant idea to maroon your charismatic, Oscar-winning star in the Indonesian jungle and let the pace of the story slow to an agonising, energy-sapping crawl. Sadly that's very much what happens in the uninspired slog that is Stephen Gaghan's Gold, as desperate mining man Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey, said star) journeys deep downriver, falls deathly ill, and then spends what feels like a genuine, honest-to-god eternity writhing around in a pair of unnervingly discoloured y-fronts.
Preposterous as it may sound this doesn't stack up to much as a cinematic experience, particularly as all we have to fill the gaping void are the brooding, middle-distance stares of beardy geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez, The Girl on the Train), plus oceans and oceans worth of rain. Eventually the downpour dries up and the down-on-their-luck pair can come swanning back to the US with a spring in their step and gold in their pockets, but by then the horse has pretty much bolted. Momentum has stalled to such an extent that even an admirably committed McConaughey can't get things back on track.
He certainly gives it the old college try, playing Wells as a twinkly-eyed, never-say-die hustler with weaknesses for whiskey, women and the need to win whatever the cost - be it financial or human (long-suffering partner Bryce Dallas Howard is shunted to the sidelines and ignored whenever suits).Try as he might, though, he just can't shift the stones in his passway. The prosthetics and make-up required to play the aggressively balding and snaggle-toothed Wells don't help, but it's the oh-so-predictable beats of a rags-to-riches-to-rags tale you've seen and heard a million times that prove insurmountable. Gaghan's film has nothing new or original to say.
The problems don't stop there, either. Last-ditch attempts to cast a man driven by sociopathic levels of ego and pride as a noble, dying-breed dreamer don't wash, and even the Wolf of Wall Street-style hi-jinks are badly watered-down. Granted this means Wells is a little more sympathetic than the loathsome, money-hungry cretin played famously by Leonardo DiCaprio, but at least Leo - and by extension the audience - had some fun.