Mr. Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is a land prospector for a mining company, which means that he has to find promising digging sites and then sell the idea of digging to investment firms. He promises high rewards, golden futures, but this is a high-risk high-reward sector. And Wells is down on his luck. At good times, he can buy his girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) a golden watch, but right now they cannot even afford an office.
On the edge of the abyss, the washed-up Wells receives a vision at night: Gold. In Indonesia. That’s where we’re going, and this film is “inspired by real events”, whatever that might mean. In this case, the story is supposedly based on a 1993 mining scandal, or at least follows some of the same beats, but all the names have been changed. Wells sells his last golden watch for a ticket to Jakarta to get in touch with the old genius Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) to convince him of his holy vision of gold in Indonesia.
Gold has a fine ensemble cast. McConaughey is just unstoppable in Hollywood, delivering one solid performance after another. Here, he seems a witless man who talks the talk, but has little to back himself up. McConaughey is overacting here, but does so in an enjoyable way. He is wildly gesturing and bulging his eyeballs, smoking and drinking, telling tales to everyone like a Ferengi in Star Trek. He’s a tool. There’s desperation in his eyes, which makes Acosta both pity him and perhaps silently wants to believe in his stories.
Edgar Ramirez is the sharp, weathered visionary who is taken by Wells’s stories. He talks like a novel and never really seems happy. He is the mystery. Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t have much to do at first, except be the infinitely patient girlfriend Kay. I was hoping throughout the film that her character would get more interesting, and the film succeeds only partly in that when she turns on a dime halfway through the story. Kay was never fleshed out that well. All these stories of successful men seem to run the same way, when it comes to their relationships.
Speaking of other such stories, Gold starts out much like The Wolf of Wall Street, with a room full of people selling stories, but Wells never convinces that he knows what he is doing, but he believes in his vision. Films like these seem to be a trend in Hollywood after Scorsese’s hit, with the similar The Founder (2016) and War Dogs (2016) coming out in the same year as Gold. Shot in Thailand, the Southeast Asian backdrop and background actors make Gold feel nicely grounded in the real world. They’re out there in the sweaty jungle and monsoon rains making this film work, but the film still feels like cashing in on an earlier hit.
I’m not too excited about some storytelling choices. The writers opt for a certain “interview after the fact” approach that takes away some of the dramatic tension instead of add to it. Also, the story is clearly crazy-fied to measure up to the other get-rich-quick movies. That said, this is an entertaining film with a good cast. I just couldn’t bring up any sympathy for the main guy, Kenny Wells. McConaughey’s mannerisms are so exaggerated here that he started to grate on me, and he is all talk and insincerity. The ending also comes out of nowhere and actually nullifies the whole point of the movie.
Overall, an interesting, acceptable movie to watch with a nice cast, but its emotional impact is small and the acting leans towards overacting. It’s consistently entertaining though and recommended for fans of the cast.