Gold (2017) (Review)

Gold had hoped to strike it big this Oscar season, positioned as one of three contenders distributed and released by The Weinstein Company this year, alongside Lion and The Founder. It, however, failed to find even an ounce of success at the Oscars this year and picked up only a single nomination for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes. Was the film simply overlooked and overshadowed by the studio's Lion, who scored itself six nominations, or is it really a tarnished piece of cinema the Academy was right to ignore?

Gold is loosely based on and inspired by the true story of the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal, in which Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), an unlucky businessman, teams up with geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) to find gold deep in the unexplored jungles of Indonesia. As the story was unknown to me beforehand, I cannot comment on how accurate the story is presented here, although I can comment on the film itself and, quite honestly, it's one of the worst I have seen for a while.

Gold reminded me of both The Big Short and War Dogs, two films which made my 2016 Year-End worst list. That ought to say enough, but I'll go further; it is so infuriating and empty that it will almost certain to make my year-end 2017 worst list. It has the riches of a true story so shocking that it could very easily stand with the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle due to the similarity in its thematic ideas and the punchiness of its content, but the film's ambition is so blatantly fixated on award season glory, rather than telling an interesting story, that the outcome is a genuinely boring and frustrating piece of film-making. It is so uninspired, tepid and desultory that the film becomes an absolute slog to endure, with Patrick Massett and John Zinman's script becoming so derivative of related pictures which only seeks to emphasise the failures of this one and remind you of the better films you could be watching; if you're going to take inspiration (or rather, rip-off) from other places, at least try to improve or differentiate from what has come before. Stephen Gaghan's direction lacks a focus and enlightenment that would otherwise elevate this story beyond what its dull current state offers, although he finds a few creative shots every now and then in a film that otherwise lacks any inspiration whatsoever.

Unfortunately, through no fault but my own, Matthew McConaughey rubs me entirely up the wrong way and I find his performance here little more than average. It's committed, I will award him that, but not at all convincing and is a typically McConaughey-esque performance. It may just be that his character (and the majority of the characters actually) is utterly deplorable and beyond likeable, but very little exists in the performance that can promote this film to a better place. Edgar Ramirez, charming in last year's Joy, is so one-dimensional and thinly-sketched here that you'd think you were staring at a photograph rather than a second-billed character and Corey Stoll and Toby Kebbell, two promising actors, are entirely underused and underserved. Whether it is just because I am particular fond of her or not, Bryce Dallas Howard is the closest thing to human here, even if she is only demonstrated as a weak-willed lover in the shadows of her slimly husband, in a film generally overpowered by testosterone. She deserves better than this. They all deserve better than this, stranded in such a poor film.

Quick Nathan - think of something positive to say. Well, the film admittedly finds the story it should have been telling all along in the final twenty minutes or so, but it is too little too late by this point and I am surprised I lasted the 121 minutes to see this nonsense through. Can I get back to talking negatively/truthful now? Thanks. Gold follows no structure at all, partly down to being built on such an empty foundation and misdirected story focal point and is executed in a way that doesn't even approach mediocrity - it fails in almost every respect. It's void of anything interesting to say, hinting at the American dream, ideas of greed and control, but never fleshes them out to make them worthwhile, imbuing the film with a horrific notion of absolutely pointlessness. It's a wasted opportunity and acts as a point to prove my hatred for stories about loathsome American men that allow greed to consume them.

Very little actually redeems this film but at least I've found (probably) my least favourite film of the year. And if I haven't, please have mercy on me. Gold gets one star for my fondness of Bryce Dallas Howard, one star for at least eventually finding the story it wants to tell in the final stretch, and half a star for allowing me to write this scathing review; it's been a long time since I got to write a review as cutting as this and I'm not in a hurry to do it again. Vapid and uninspired, this spiritless shell of a film demonstrates everything wrong with Oscar bait.


Summary: Gold is worthless, an insipid and uninspired picture that only appears to magnify its failures by blatantly scrambling for an award season glory it will never unearth. Gold is one to avoid at all costs.

Highlight: The credits rolling and walking out into the rainy, gloomy streets of Birmingham again.