** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Stephen Gaghan
STARS Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez
- Matthew McConaughey and Édgar Ramírez in Gold (Photo: The Weinstein Co.)
(For a look at the Best & Worst Films of 2016, go here).
Just because a movie is Oscar bait doesn't mean members of the Academy will necessarily take the bait. Sometimes, they're able to recognize an awards imposter right off the bat — fool's gold clearly not worthy of Oscar gold.
Gold is just such a film. Opening in L.A.-limited release at the tail end of 2016 to give it that air of importance (i.e. Let the rubes blanketing the rest of the country wait!), this one finds director Stephen Gaghan, writers Patrick Massett and John Zinman, and producer-star Matthew McConaughey unearthing a real-life scenario — a 90s-era scandal centering around a Canadian mining outfit — and turning it into yet another celluloid cautionary tale about capitalism and corruption. Worthy subject, dry delivery — at least The Founder, another recent title that failed to click as Oscar bait, made a similar saga juicy and easily digestible.
To portray Kenny Wells, an eager-beaver prospector who teams up with a geologist (Édgar Ramírez, acting like he just woke up from a nap) to look for gold in them thar Indonesian hills and jungles, McConaughey contributes his usual live-wire intensity, even if he often lets his pot belly and semi-bald pate — both acquired for the role — do their fair share of the emoting. But the story as presented is airless and uninvolving, even with Gaghan working overtime with his stylistic choices. While trying to emulate the go-for-broke excesses of The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle and The Big Short, the helmer frequently mistakes breathless effort for actual achievement.
The maxim states that all that glitters is not gold, and that's certainly true. In the case of Gold, it's more like a shattered disco ball, promising dazzlement but delivering only a few fleeting glints of illumination.