Exchange rates rise and fall, share prices plummet and rally, but a precious metal like gold never seems to lose its seductive lustre.
Stephen Gaghan’s drama of corporate greed and misinformation is mined from a true story that sent shockwaves through the US stock market.
A haphazard script melts down outlandish facts and casts them with dramatic flourishes into a rags-to-riches fairytale anchored by a scene-stealing performance from Matthew McConaughey as a rogue gold prospector, who lets dollar signs cloud his judgement.
The handsome Oscar-winning star sports a generous belly, wayward combover and alarmingly crooked teeth, which he sinks gleefully into each preposterous twist, eliciting sympathy and Schadenfreude as his character ignores dire warnings from a hometown girlfriend to aggressively pursue his American dream. Gold is a curious alloy of madness and melancholy.
Gaghan’s film ultimately can’t decide whether to pity or punish its woefully misguided central character for his morally dubious actions, building to an unexpected coda that tarnishes the robust work of the ensemble cast and calls into question whether the title should in fact be Fool’s Gold.
In 1988, prospector Kenny Wells (McConaughey) presides over the faltering family business - Washoe Mining Corporation - in Reno, Nevada.
Kenny and his associates sweat blood and tears from their makeshift office, the local bar, where Kenny’s doting girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) serves drinks while her beau vows to “make the dollar holler”.
One alcohol-fuelled night, Kenny has a vivid dream about Indonesia and, on a whim, he pawns Kay’s watch to fly east, where he hopes to persuade geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) to join him on a madcap quest into the jungle.
Kenny invests every last cent to drill core samples and send them down river for analysis in the hope that gold lurks beneath the jungle canopy.
Miraculously, one sample shows traces of the precious metal and it seems that Kenny and Michael have stumbled upon an untapped reserve.
New York investment banker Brian Woolf (Corey Stoll) woos Kenny in order to secure a slice of the golden pie, while cutthroat rival prospector Mark Hancock (Bruce Greenwood) jealously observes the negotiations.
“These guys are going to tear you up,” Kay tearfully warns Kenny. “Don’t ask me to watch what happens next.”
Gold wisely invests in a charismatic leading man, capable of polishing an uneven plot to a dull glister.
McConaughey is in his element, instructing one colleague that he “will be riding shotgun on my jockstrap” as he huffs and puffs through each implausible interlude.
Ramirez and Howard are poorly served in pivotal supporting roles and the two-hour running time feels considerably longer, especially in a sagging middle act rife with malaria and misdirection.