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We may catch the glint of a wanna-be grand scheme here, but this one turns out to be, sadly, only gold-plated.
Matthew McConaughey goes full out as a desperate rogue, out to prove he can be as successful a mining baron as was his father. Having essentially lost the business in an American recession, he gambles it all on one last get rich quick scheme, tapping into a potential Indonesian discovery, partnering with an earnest geologist who just might be on to something very, very big.
Perhaps under the direction of a more seasoned director, this would-be epic could have been a macho morality whopper along the lines of, say, Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, in which, of course, McConaughey knocks a most memorable scene out of the top of the Twin Towers. Unfortunately, Stephen Gaghan, who writes ambitiously and usually well, loses control of all he obviously wants to do. The role of Kenny is a juicy one: a sweaty schemer so hungry for that literal pot of gold, he can’t see when he might be getting played. And the surroundings, the 1980’s décor, dress and big and small living, feel so real, you can almost touch the polyester. You (or at least I) can’t help but kind of root for a movie that reminds us greed is not, after all, good. But scenes bounce abruptly, characters come and go without explanation and even the true supporting stars get buried next to Kenny’s moist glow. Edgar Ramirez’s brilliant scientist winds up as a rather black and white kind of guy, when we know there are grays to be explored. And poor Bryce Dallas Howard is completely wasted as the waitress with the heart of gold who, of course, knows Kenny better than he does. Yawn.