January is always a bit of a slog at the box office, with films that land anywhere between mediocre and miserable. Most are shallow, uber-commercial cash grabs with little heart and effort put into them. Occasionally, however, someone puts out a movie that, by the looks of it, seems like it will have a little more finesse and thoughtfulness. This is the kind of film thatgives moviegoers hope that something can lift them out of the cold, uninspired Hollywood drain that is the first of the year
Stephen Gaghan’s “Gold” looked like it could perhaps be the month’s saving grace this time around: a Matthew McConaughey vehicle about the allure of the world’s most sought-after shiny object and the pursuit of the American dream. But it’s exactly these attributes, and the film’s inability to rise above them, that make “Gold” feel rehashed and unexciting. We’ve all seen “The Social Network” or “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and if you haven’t, chances are you’ve seen another movie like them. “Gold” is yet another example of a protagonist going from rock bottom to sky high in the chase for big money, then landing in some moral/emotional middle ground before the story decides on a witty enough one-liner or clever enough pop classic to wrap it up. “Gold”‘s story beats like a broken Oscar-bait record, and while you can clearly make out the scenes in which the movie aspires to award-winning heights, it’s hard to imagine that anyone will be saying this movie’s name come next fall, in anticipation of the awards show season.
Despite a few truly solid and engaging moments from McConaughey and co-star Edgar Ramirez (as well as a talented supporting ensemble), “Gold” drags you through predictable plotting, bizarre editorial choices and transitions, and shocking lapses in visual quality and sound mixing. There are scenes in which the difference in quality between two shots is so drastic it almost feels like the editors inserted footage from 30 years ago into the film.
The performances are really what maintain any level of enjoyment and intrigue, and as a result, we wind up with a movie that’s a decent enough “catch it on Netflix, eventually… maybe… if you have an evening to kill” experience. “Gold” could have been the first really solid movie of the year but instead ended up treading the same waters we see several times a year, every year, when A-list actors routinely pick typical, uncreative dramas to tie their names to.