Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Written by: Stephen Gaghan, Patrick Massett, John Zinman
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 11/20/16
Opens: January 27, 2017
The tagline for “Gold” is this: “It was never about the money.” As you begin to watch Stephen Gaghan’s latest offering (Gaghan is well known for directing “Syriana” about a merger of two American oil companies and “Traffic” wherein a conservative judge finds that his daughter is a crack addict), you may wonder how that line could be justified. After all the principal character, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), has trampled his father’s business into the ground, is sorely in need of cash, and has traveled to Indonesia, risking malaria and assassination by their military in search of prosperity for his new company. The answer comes out later in the story, after he may be the recipient of a substantial sum, say, three hundred million dollars.
“Gold” may be considered this year’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the action taking place in a New York boardroom involving underwriters who are asked to risk large sums to capitalize an infant industry. Kenny Wells, who already suffers from losing the business for which his father had worked for a lifetime, gets a bright idea. Why not team up with a geologist, Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramirez), and go to the Indonesian rain forest to dig for gold? Based on Acosta’s counsel, they mine the region, hiring bands of local people to cut down the trees to prepare for the operation. Of course they strike it rich, or there wouldn’t be much of a story. But what happens to Wells, his relationship with Acosta and with his stunning wife Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) and with major underwriter Corey Stoll (Brian Woolf), evokes a complexity that surprises everyone. In one of the year’s most ironic endings, a final minute of the two-hour film that could have the audience gasping, “Gold” closes on a note that you’d not see coming.
The story is generic enough, one that does not ignite like Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” This is surprising considering that director Gaghan films in an exotic rain forest of Thailand, standing in for Indonesia. The clout comes instead from the two performances, particularly the key one by McConaughey, who is seen at first looking like the metrosexual advertiser for luxury products but who, when the script continues seven years, later finds him ageing with a largely shaved head. His eyes reflect the passion of a man, a fanatic really, utterly consumed by the American dream of making something of himself big time—as the CEO of a mining company. There are the usual women, in this case his wife Kay but also a journalist (Rachael Taylor) who flirts with him in front of his wife.
Édgar Ramirez co-stars with his sexy Venezuelan accent, giving the role of geologist a certain glamor as he senses the gold spot in Indonesia that would make him and his companion rich. Brian Wolf (Corey Stoll) emerges as the underwriter who would transform the yellow metal into greenbacks with FBI Agent Jennings (Toby Kebbell) looking into the potential for the kind of foul play that would make Bernie Madoff envious.
“Gold,” clearly pushing Matthew McConaughey as a potential Oscar candidate, was filmed in Bangkok, Sura Thani (a gorgeous location that is also the gateway to Indonesia’s many islands), Albuquerque, Reno and New York City.
Rated R. 120 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B