Gold Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by Stephen Gaghan. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.
Although opening text asserts that Gold is “inspired by true events,” the inspiration is so loose that the movie might as well be entirely fictional. Based in very broad strokes on the Bre-X mining scandal of 1997, Gold moves the story from Calgary, Canada, to Reno, Nevada, and from the ’90s to the ’80s, inventing a new company (Washoe Mining) and a new protagonist (Kenny Wells, played by Matthew McConaughey) to form the heart of the story. It’s still about a small mining company discovering what appears to be a huge cache of gold in Indonesia, thanks to the work of a renegade geologist (fictionalized here as Michael Acosta, played by Édgar Ramírez).
The scandal itself doesn’t unfold until the movie is nearly over, though, and for its first two-thirds Gold is a mostly dull, straightforward story about a down-on-his-luck businessman looking for a comeback. Both Michael Mann and Spike Lee were attached to direct Patrick Massett and John Zinman’s screenplay at different points in the past, and maybe they could have given it more style than eventual director Stephen Gaghan (Syriana), who delivers the story with little flair or momentum. McConaughey, sporting thinning hair and a thick gut, throws himself into his performance, but it’s more energy than the part warrants, really. There’s thematic potential in the changes of location and time period, but the movie never makes those changes matter.