The same night Matthew McConaughey gave one of the longest acceptance speeches in Oscar history, HBO aired the seventh episode of TV sensation True Detective. More than a comeback, beyond #McConaissance, this was domination: film and TV, old-media prestige and modern memedom. After a night like that, we can’t really blame him for indulging his messianic side in self-serious glop like Interstellar and Free State of Jones.
Nothing gold can stay. And Gold ain’t the McConaissance 2.0. But at least the actor is having fun again. As prospecting entrepreneur Kenny Wells, McConaughey’s a glorious wreck: round stomach, receding hairline, whiskey-scented desperation sweat. We follow Wells to Indonesia, to Wall Street. There is narration, and money montages, sex and crime, and rise and fall. You guessed it: Gold wants to be the GoodFellas of mineral excavation, but it’s more like War Dogs with a midlife crisis. Edgar Ramirez plays Kenny’s swashbuckling partner, and it’s a kick to see McConaughey’s energy ping-pong off Ramirez’s Great Adventurer charisma. (Think the Odd Couple doing Fitzcarraldo.)
The story, loosely true, tendrils through big ideas about capitalist madness run amok. But Gold wastes McConaughey’s mania with unconvincing sentimentality. How sentimental? Late in the film Kenny receives a (fictional) prospecting award and gives a (long) speech about prospectors and dreamers. The music swells; your eyes roll. Gold could’ve been great, but it’s just all right (all right). B–