Matthew McConaughey enjoys sporting a pot belly and receded hairline in Gold, playing "a guy who fell down drunk and woke up in a ton of cash." Kenny Wells is a role all right, all right up McConaughey's alley as a modern gold prospector.
Kenny Wells is also not the character that Gold should focus upon so intently. Maybe that wouldn't be as noticeable if Stephen Gaghan's movie weren't based on a true story, widely unknown but easily Googled. My complaint is tricky to explain since Gold takes a sharp turn around the 90-minute mark and spoilers aren't my style.
Let's just say that when Gaghan's misdirection pans out, viewers may begin thinking what those who looked up the Bre-X mining scandal already wonder: Why haven't we learned more about this other guy? There's more than a colorful character to him; there's your movie.
A crash course: In the 1990s the struggling Canadian mining company Bre-X declared a huge gold strike in Borneo and began rounding up investors. The penny stock soared to $280 per share, a reported $6 billion total.
One problem: There was no gold.
Gaghan changes names of people, places and corporations but essentials of the Bre-X case remain the same. Kenny Wells likely resembles a keenly mussed McConaughey rogue more than businessman John Felderhof, on whom he's based. Gold is truth presented with alternative facts. An opening note claiming it's inspired is a stretch.
Patrick Massett and John Zinman's screenplay is tonally erratic, lacking characterization except for Kenny. Gold plays like a metallurgical spin on The Big Short, spelling out mining concepts to anyone so amused. Those who aren't might appreciate Kenny's wolf cub of Wall Street phase, living lustily until the gavel drops. Both camps can wonder why Bryce Dallas Howard accepted a concerned wife role so underwritten, or why Edgar Ramirez (Joy, Hands of Stone) as Kenny's prospecting partner isn't a bigger star yet.
Gold isn't a bad movie, just lifeless except for McConaughey, which would be helped if Ramirez, Corey Stoll's commodities watchdog, or Toby Kebbell's FBI agent were given more. Everything feels like a missed opportunity. I'd prefer to see the movie Gaghan leads me to imagine, which a better movie wouldn't do.
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.