Loosely based on a 1990s gold-mining scandal, the movie is the latest in a recent flurry of “capitalism run wild” tales such as The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street and Syriana, with a touch of Heart of Darkness thrown into the mix.
Having nearly run the family prospecting business into bankruptcy, Kenny pawns his wife’s watch and flies to Indonesia to gamble everything on the geological expertise of Mike Acosta (Édgar Ramírez). After contracting malaria deep in the Indonesian rainforest, he wakes from his delirium to the news that they have struck gold.
A gilded future opens up for Kenny and his patient girlfriend, Kaylene (Bryce Dallas Howard), who has been working two jobs to make ends meet.
Of course, things go awry, as they always do in these fables about the dangers of greed and hedonism. The vultures begin to circle in the form of Wall Street opportunists, rival mining magnates and the Indonesian government.
The corruptions of wealth and Kenny’s rampant egomania start to take their toll. When his rags-to-riches trajectory takes a U-turn with the FBI launching a fraud investigation, the movie starts to lose its momentum.
Gold film is excellently cast and beautifully shot. Director Stephen Gaghan (writer of Traffic and writer-director of Syriana) gives the film a sleazy yet strangely pleasing ’80s tone. The gold strike and obscene wealth portion of the film, in particular, feel like over-caffeinated music videos with montages set to music by the Pixies, New Order and Joy Division.
Even balding and paunchy, McConaughey’s latest charming rogue is more than enough to keep audiences riveted through Gold’s patchy rhythm. While Kenny doesn’t have the charisma of some of the actor’s most recent characters, he still infuses the role with enough subtlety to keep us guessing about whether we’re in the presence of an ego-manic, a fool or a con artist. Perhaps all three?
While this tale of capitalism run amok falls a little flat, fans of McConaughey’s on-screen magnetism will not leave disappointed.
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