Kenny Wells, an unlucky businessman, teams up with a geologist to try and dig up gold deep in the uncharted jungles of Indonesia.
With new movie Gold, Matthew McConaughey adds yet another likeable rogue to his resumé.
In the Stephen Gaghan-directed crime adventure, McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a gold prospector and owner of a failing Nevada mining company, who gambles on the hunch of geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez).
With a script from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider screenwriters Patrick Massett and John Zinman, the film is loosely based on the true story of the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal, when a massive gold deposit was supposedly discovered in the jungles of Indonesia.
For legal and creative reasons, Gaghan changes names and plot, with the focus turning to Wells, along with his receding hairline, buck teeth and potbelly.
Soon after acting on a dream that takes him deep into the Southeast Asian nation, Wells strikes it rich.
Accordingly, a bright future quickly opens up for him and his long-suffering girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), and before long Wells is going head-to-head with some of the business world’s most powerful players, all of whom want a slice of his new-found wealth.
One minute Wells is on top of the world, ringing the opening bell on Wall Street, but as a result of his naivety and fondness for whisky, it all soon comes crashing down at his feet and the audience is led to question whether he is able to front up with the goods promised.
“A raccoon,” one character whispers of Wells, “Who’s gotten his hands on the Hope Diamond.”
In spite of his many failures, it’s impossible not to root for the slobby Wells, who ultimately is unwilling to give up his part of the American dream, even when he’s drowning in a vastly corrupt world.
While much has been made McConaughey’s weight gain for the part, somehow the actor’s vastly changed figure seems less necessary in this film than it did for his Oscar-winning performance as an AIDS sufferer in Dallas Buyers Club, and the usually svelte star seems visibly uncomfortable in himself.
Meanwhile, Howard delivers yet another solid performance as Kay, the bartender with a heart of gold. With her big hair and shiny ’80s-style outfits, she acts as the emotional cornerstone of the narrative, and it’s hard to watch her try and protect her beau as he falls deeper into a dark scenario of his own making.
And the film will no doubt lead to an abundance of roles for Venezuela-born Ramirez, who with his Mona Lisa smile, manages to be simultaneously engaging and elusive.
Douglas Crise’s editing moves along at pace, especially towards the end, and the climactic stretch where Wells falls into the clutches of the FBI over his dealings are wrought with tension, with the ending inevitably making the audience question whether Wells is simply another fool for chasing all that glitters, or some sort of creative mastermind with no equal.
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