Film Review: GOLD (USA 2016) ***

gold.jpgDirector: Stephen Gaghan
Writers: Patrick Massett, John Zinman
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard

Review by Gilbert Seah

GOLD has been advertised as an American crime adventure film. But the film is not that much an adventure film, feeling more like a biopic of Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), an unlucky businessman who discovers and finds gold, but loses it all including his long-suffering girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard). GOLD is in reality, based on the Bre-X scandal. It is indicated at the start of the film that the film is inspired by true events. So, the Wells character is likely made up.

It appears that the entire story of GOLD can be determined from the trailer. But it is not so. Though the story has a twist, director Gaghan, who directs based on a script by himself, Patrick Massett and John Zinman cannot decide what kind of film (satirical or sincere) it wants to be. It is also part romance, crime, a bit of adventure but feels like a biopic of a totally obnoxious (though fictitious) person that the audience is supposed to root for.

The film turns towards sincerity in the segment where Kay angrily warns Kenny of the business wolves. The satire is mainly found in Kenny’s character – for example in the scene with him hugging geologist Michael in his underwear like two gay lovers.

Oscar winner, Matthew McConaughey (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB) looks absolutely horrendous in the movie – intentionally and he flaunts it. He has put on so many pounds that his gut shows. Besides smoking half the time, Kenny spawns a receding hairline, looking half bald with bad skin. It makes matters worse that the guy the audience is supposed to root for is not only obnoxious but ugly.

The film is set in Indonesia where the gold prospecting is being done. Locations in Thailand are used to substitute for Indonesia, for obvious reasons that Thailand is more stable for filming. As far as westerners go, most cannot tell the difference. The film makes sure that the locals in the film including the character of the geologist Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez) speak Malay and not Thai.

Of the performances, veteran Stacy Keach as big-shot, Clive Coleman stands out. Others supporting actors like Howard, Ramirez, Bruce Greenwood deliver standard uninspired performances. McConaughey is McConaughey, who can deliver an extremely annoying over-acted performance, as observable in the film’s first 10 minutes. But hand it to him, at least his over-acting keeps the film from being boring.

The film begins with Kay and Kenny talking about gold prospects. The script quickly jumps 7 years into the story with Kenny growing bald and fat. The script also calls for the story to bounce to and from from the States to Indonesia. Director Gaghan also, for no reason, resolves to split screen for a few minutes of the movie and then never goes back to it.

The most interesting segments of GOLD are not the location shots in Thailand. They are the ones involving the business wheeling-dealing – often with Kenny being taken for a rough ride. The best of these is the business conference in which a strategic partner is sought with an impossible conversation.

Does GOLD succeed in telling an entertaining story? The answer is up to the audience to decide but as in the words of Kelly when he first discovers gold: “the ride has begun!”


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