When a prospector discovers gold in a remote location, can he hold on to his fortune or will he be completely swindled out of his wealth?
In the late 1980’s, prospector Kenny Wells (McConaughey) is struggling to keep his generations-long family business, Washoe Mining, afloat. During the seven years since his father’s death, Wells does not seem to have the same knack for this business as his ancestors. After being forced to vacate his Reno, Nevada offices, his employees now work out of a local bar where they make cold calls to potential investors. As if this isn’t bad enough, Wells also has to give up his home and move in with his long-time girlfriend Kay (Dallas Howard). Researching new opportunities, Wells learns of the possibility of gold in the jungle mountains of Indonesia.
Unable to pursue this on his own, Wells seeks venture capitalists to finance the operation, but comes up empty. In order to enhance both his credibility and chances for success, he pursues Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez), a noted geologist, to work with him. Once Wells is able to raise a small fraction of the funds he will need for this project, Acosta informs him they have just discovered gold right around the point when they’ve run out of money. With this proof of concept complete, Wells and Acosta are now finding that investors with deep pockets are suddenly interested in joining them.
Soon, Wells partners with an investment banking firm which underwrites Washoe Mining’s IPO on The New York Stock Exchange. Later, when another, more experienced mining company tries to purchase a controlling interest in Washoe in order to see this project through to a successful completion, Wells rejects the deal, finding it insulting. This proves to be a fateful decision as that company retaliates by using its connections with the Indonesian government to shut down Washoe’s mine. Wells and Acosta counter by finagling a partnering deal with the prodigal son of the Indonesian president, which results in their mine being reopened. As Washoe becomes increasingly successful with the discovery of large quantities of gold, the rug gets pulled out from under Wells when it is revealed that a scam has been perpetrated by trusted associates. When Washoe collapses and Wells finds himself under investigation by the FBI, will he be able to prove his innocence to stay out of prison?
“Gold” tells a remarkable tale – only made more amazing by the fact that it is inspired by a true story. There are so many twists and turns – crosses and double-crosses – that it would be difficult for even the most creative screenwriter to invent a fictional story such as this. But therein lies part of the problem. In addition, it is not helped by the fact that its protagonist is so flawed that it becomes difficult to root for him, save for the fact that he becomes victimized by so many people around him that the audience almost starts feeling sympathetically. It is noteworthy, however, that much of his victimization is brought about by his own doing.
To begin with, the story gets difficult to follow between all of the intricate details and introduction of many characters. It probably could have used a narrator – whether Wells himself or one of the FBI agents investigating the case or some other character. The filmmakers might have been well served by taking in an additional viewing of Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”, which handled this same challenge rather artfully by the use of a narrator (in that case, protagonist, Henry Hill). “Goodfellas” also had many different turns to its story as well as quite a few characters coming and going throughout. Can the use of a narrator be considered something of a cheat? Yes, but it depends on the film, how the narration is used and other factors as well.
Another problem with “Gold” – equally lamentable – is the way its ending is handled. Without giving away too much, Wells has been beaten up pretty badly by this point and is currently under FBI investigation, yet we are given to understand by the way the ending is presented that he manages to land on his feet and all is well in his world. Given the circumstances of his investigation, this is difficult to comprehend. In addition to the movie missing a narrator, it might also be missing a rather valuable epilogue as well. True, epilogues in films have become trite due to overuse (or misuse), but here, it would have been extremely helpful in order to clarify exactly how this true story resolved itself. Audiences often recommend motion pictures based on how they feel coming out of the theater, and this is frequently dictated by how satisfying the ending may or may not be. It is difficult to imagine audiences emerging from a screening of “Gold” without doing a considerable amount of head-scratching due to its ending.