GOLD IS AN objectively ugly element. It’s a dull, diarrhea-yellow, and it serves little practical purpose other than being a relatively clean conductor of electricity. And yet, simply because of its rarity, it’s become a coveted metal—even as displaying it in abundance reveals one’s lack of taste. For example, only a complete moron with no class whatsoever would decide to deck out, say, his entire Manhattan apartment in gold.
Now there’s a movie called Gold, and to its credit, it hardly ever puts the awful-looking metal onscreen. The film’s plot, however, is consumed by it. Matthew McConaughey plays a Nevada prospector in the ’80s who’s desperately looking for it; Édgar Ramírez plays a geologist who thinks he’s found quite a bit of it in Indonesia. Together they team up to build a gold mine, and, as they take on investors, a wild ride on the capitalism train ensues. There is nothing in Gold you haven’t seen before in a million other movies about men of questionable morality rocketing to unimaginable wealth.
McConaughey’s character, Kenny Wells, is bald with a potbelly and a wonky tooth, but the severe de-glamming of McConaughey is so extreme that you wonder why they went to all the extra effort instead of just finding a less beautiful person for the role. McConaughey’s committed to the part, though, which mostly requires him to tote a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, as he fidgets, sashays, whoops, and mumbles incomprehensibly. Kenny is meant to be crass and annoying, and on those terms, McConaughey’s performance is a triumph. He is so successful at being obnoxious that sitting through Gold about as enjoyable as having a toxic-smelling stranger breathe down your neck while he tries to chat you up at the bar.
Ramírez’s Michael Acosta is infinitely more interesting, a man who actually knows something about gold and how to find it. But for plot purposes, he must remain the secondary character, so we mostly follow McConaughey around as he shocks Wall Street fat cats with his boorish ways. Bryce Dallas Howard is in the perfunctory role of the unfortunate girlfriend, and I wish there was something—anything—interesting to say about her character or performance.
There’s a halfway-decent plot twist about 20 minutes from the end, but even still, more than three-quarters of Gold is a deeply unpleasant experience—an unfunny, lite version of Wolf of Wall Street that depicts churlish men in bad ’80s clothes acting like overgrown teenagers. Despite having hardly any gold actually onscreen, Gold remains tacky, overbearing, and of little use.