The Herald Reviews: Gold

“All that glitters is not gold,” is an eerily apt adage for this woefully underwhelming tale of greed and desperation.


In accessing my thoughts on the based-on-a-somewhat-true, inspired-by-shady-happenings drama, I couldn’t help but pause for thought at the hefty gorge Matthew McConaughey has carved out between his current acting status and his ghost of dramedy’s past.

Formerly the go-to man for rom-coms and quirky adventure flicks, McConaughey resurrected a previously thought unsalvageable career in remarkable fashion with noteworthy turns in the indie darling Mud, Christopher Nolan sci-fi epic Interstellar, HBO crime series True Detective and of course his Oscar winning and emotionally hefty tour-de-force performance in Dallas Buyers Club.

In Gold, a film that explore the pitfalls of the rolling dice that is the mining industry and the folly that lies therein, McConaughey continues a winning streak that all but eradicates his past misgivings. Sadly, one great performance does not a great film make.

Gold, which is in part inspired by the real life Bre-X mining scandal of 1997 (a Canadian story no less!), is a larger-than-life premise with a truly uninspired and unremarkable delivery.

On paper, and with a cast that boasts a true who’s who including the aforementioned and hotter than fire lead as well as stellar supporting players Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, Bruce Greenwood and Craig T. Nelson, Gold is a film that should shine as bright and triumphant as its source material. Yet, woefully so, there is something lacking, something off kilter from the onset.

McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, based on Canada’s Bre-X CEO David Walsh, a down on his luck businessman and prospector who puts his last shred of hope, and dollars, into a Russian Roulette style gamble, banking on the crestfallen wonder-boy of the geological world Michael Acosta (Ramirez) to carry him to the mother-load of all gold finds. Carried by his alcohol induced dream of the find of a century in Indonesia, Wells packs off to Borneo where the unlikely partners scrape and scratch and, as according to Hollywood planing, inevitably do hit the big one. Or do they?

The problem is, and despite McConaughey’s noble efforts, we the viewer are never made to feel particularly for Wells. We fail to cheer at his success or ache at his failure. For a film that hinges on the emotional wallop of highs and lows, admittedly talented director Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) misses the mark on nailing the emotional crescendos.

From the onset we know we’re getting a lesson on fatal pitfalls of capitalism, of the dangers of greed and putting every egg in your basket. It’s the stuff life lessons are made of, and that’s fine, but it’s a tale we’ve heard told many times, and done better.

By the time the third act, and its mildly shocking reveal unravel, the pace comes to a slow and sluggish halt rather than a whiplash stop. We’ve trudged through sopping jungles, the dog fights of Wall Street and have fallen in and out of the Wells’s bottle enough times that we’ve become numb to the outcome.

“All that glitters is not gold,” and such is true for a film with big ideas, but not enough juice to achieve them.

Gold is now playing in theatres across Canada. 

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