“Gold” tries desperately hard to emulate “Blow” or “The Wolf of Wall Street” with its larger-than-life, get-super-rich-quick story. But it loses value quickly, lacking any of the guilty pleasure charms of other quirky capitalist biopics. In fact, it has no pleasure or charm all together.
The thing that makes “Gold” unenjoyable is that everything Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez’s characters are doing in the film, initially, is legal. With “Blow,” we get a a cathartic, escapist thrill when we watch Johnny Depp deal drugs, make millions and shake the blood-stained hand of Pablo Escobar. In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” we laugh and applaud Leonard DiCaprio’s sanctimonious soirees because we feel the U.S. government has gyped us in one way or another, and if we can’t get back at Uncle Sam, we’re happy that at least Leo and his cronies can.
Sure, “Gold” is a different movie, and you can’t compare apples to oranges or gold to silver. The problem is that it’s trying too hard to be one of these types of movies with its unsightly but undeniably charismatic star Matthew McConaughey. Director Stephen Gaghan tries to cloak McConaughey’s charms with an exposed belly and glossy bald head, but still wants McConaughey so badly to be a Jordan Belfort or a Patrick Bateman that he uses every opportunity for the Texan to woo any suit or skirt in his path.
The biggest suit that McConaughey needs to woo is Michael Acosta, a mining expert played by Edgar Ramirez. Acosta promises riches and gold and McConaughey is enticed. Through each other’s efforts, they become rich. But it’s so unsatisfying because Acosta is such a boring character. He wears a $1,000 dollar suit but carries the personality of a kitchen chair. Every time we see Acosta feels like the first time, like an acquaintance you always see at parties but can never remember their name because they’re so uninteresting. Same goes for Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays McConaughey’s love interest. Howard does her best with what’s given to her, but when we can’t even think of an adjective to describe a character besides “red-haired,” you know that she wasn’t written well.
These failures are so sad because this story is so interesting! There’s a lot here that could make a really awesome movie if they played it as a straight drama instead of trying to make it into something it isn’t. I’m usually not a fan of saying a movie could have done better if it went against its original creative vision, but this movie is an exception because it tried and failed to copy someone else’s creative vision. Stick to what makes your story interesting, and your film will be richer for it.