First Hit: Hard to engage with a film when you don’t like the main character.
There is very little about Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) that is likeable. He’s smarmy in the way he looks, how he acts, and his intentions. Granted the film lets the audience believe he might have changed in the ending scene, however, there’s enough to believe differently.
Supposedly this is based on a true story, however after reading about the real story; “loosely” is probably the best possible description. However, that isn’t the point of this review, therefore I will not spend time on the differences between the real story and this story.
In this film, Wells is drinking and smoking so much of the time I could almost smell the smoke and alcohol laden odor coming through the screen. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, for the main character to be so unappealing made it hard to get into the film. I’m not sure why McConaughey had to gain so much weight and have such thin hair on top of his head, but these things didn’t help his unshaven, scraggly tooth looking character. It was almost as if he wanted to make himself as unappealing as possible.
The way he treated his longtime girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) was horrendous. She loved him and supported him through his destruction of his Dad (Craig T. Nelson) and grandfather’s company Washoe Mining. It gets so bad they work out of a bar.
Kenny gets the idea from a dream to hook up with Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) and find gold in Indonesia. Unbeknown to Wells, Acosta has salted the drilling core findings and because Wells believes they’ve found gold, he revives Washoe Mining and sell millions of shares as they go public.
This film also involves the family of the Monarch in Indonesia. When the monarchy and other investors discover that this has been a hoax, everything falls apart.
The scenes of the jungle and drilling operation were well done. The boardroom scenes were, at times, powerful, and the use of the bar as Washoe’s office was very telling of the whole film and Wells’ personality. The one thing the film did do very well was show just how fleeting wealth can be.
McConaughey was OK as Wells. He had great handle on the maniac part of a gold prospector, but everything else felt very overdone and took away from the film instead of adding to it. Howard was strong as Wells longtime girlfriend. She was appropriately supportive and loving. The scene in the hotel after the company went public on the stock trading floor, was very well done. Ramirez was great as the geologist and Wells gold prospecting partner. His engagement and support, with a slight questionable edge was wonderful. Patrick Massett and John Zinman wrote a wonderful script. I loved some of the lines, however it was McConaughey and director Stephen Gaghan's misguidance for the main character that hurt this film. I liked the sequence of the scenes and many of the sets were very well done, but being put off by the main character who is in virtually every scene can and did hurt this film.
Overall: I liked the story of greed, gold and how it played out, but without someone or something to care or think about, it felt lifeless.