This movie is like Romancing the Stone, meets the Wolf of Wall Street, with Matthew McConaughey gaining as much weight as he lost for Dallas Buyers Club, so he can play Christian Bale from American Hustle. And this movie is about as entertaining as all of those movies, despite the rise and fall narrative that adds nothing new.
This is very loosely based on Filipino prospector Michael de Guzman, who in the early ‘90s convinced Canadian conglomerate Bre-X Minerals that he found gold in Indonesia. It ended up being one of the biggest gold mining scandals ever.
In this fictional story that borrows a few things from that, it’s 1981 in Reno. Mining executive Kenny Wells has inherited a successful company from his father (Craig T. Nelson). The business isn’t doing as well without Pop around. Instead of high-rise offices, Kenny’s crew is working out of a bar. As my wife said to me during the movie, “I didn’t realize so much of mining was telemarketing.”
They need to get backers to drill for gold, and at least he gets to drink non-stop. He also gets to hook up with the cocktail waitress, played well by Bryce Dallas Howard (who should’ve been given a little more to do).
Wells also hooks up with Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez, who was so great as Roberto Duran in Hands of Stone). Off to the Indonesian jungles they go, dodging headhunters and mosquitoes with malaria. Just as they’re about to run out of the hundreds of thousands they raised to dig — they score big. None of that is a spoiler, as it’s all shown in the trailers. It’s the downfall that is a lot more interesting.
Stephen Gaghan (Syriana), who won the Oscar for writing the overrated Traffic, directs this. It could’ve used a bit more of the energy we saw in either of those films.
The supporting cast is surprisingly strong. It was interesting seeing Corey Stoll play a ruthless investor that is never over-the-top with his pushiness. He’s always rather reasonable. Toby Kebbell plays an FBI investigator well; And Bruce Greenwood and Stacy Keach are solid gold.
The soundtrack was interesting, with an Isley Brothers cover of “Spill the Wine” and a cover of the Talking Heads “This Must be the Place” (which reminded me of Wall Street). We also heard Styx, The Pixies, New Order, Richard Thompson, and a terrific new song from Iggy Pop, where he seems to be channeling the late Leonard Cohen [side note: I would’ve loved to have heard Bow Wow Wow’s “Gold he Said.”]
At two hours, the movie was a bit longer than it needed to be, yet I was never bored.
2 ½ stars out of 5.