I think the worst thing that can be said about a movie whether it was bad or good is that it was not memorable. That hasn’t been a problem with many of the films this year in that they were either good (Patriot’s Day), great (Split) or bad (Underworld, Monster Trucks) but I didn’t struggle to remember most of the movie when I sat down to write the review only a few hours later in every single case. In this particular film, I didn’t really remember anything that stuck out as being particularly good or bad and it took me a while to formulate an accurate rating based on my feelings regarding it.
Let’s get the plot out of the way first: Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is a very unlucky businessman who works in his late father’s mining company and lives with his girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) on the edge of poverty and being forced out of his home. However, on one particular day, he makes his way over to Indonesia to find an old friend Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), who has been spending his time mining in search of gold but with no more funds. After Wells helps to raise the money, a miracle occurs and the two of them discover gold in them thar hills! This of course makes them rich and successful but trouble ensues when Kenny runs afoul of Corporate America, various investors and other hurdles in his path.
Matthew McConaughey is the star of this movie and the only real reason you should go and see it. He becomes this greasy, middle-aged (well, I guess he is technically middle-aged in reality now), slightly overweight buffoon who ends up with way more success than he knows what to do with, which is a total departure from his usual roles. You don’t get the slicked-back slow-talking cool guy with a southern drawl here. What you get is an insecure man who is unsure of himself but suddenly makes a drastic personality change immediately when he gets his hands on some money and success. I had heard that this film made it out in time for awards contention at the end of 2016 by being released in a very small group of theatres so I was pretty surprised that he was never up for a Golden Globe and/or an Oscar. The only problem with his character is that the film never truly knows if they want you to like him, hate him or feel pity for him and his complete ineptitude at times. Not to discount the other actors in the movie but there’s really not a lot to say about them. Edgar Ramirez looks bored most of the time and is incredibly dull which I can only attribute to disinterest in the material or some kind of disconnect between he and the director (Stephen Gaghan). I did enjoy Bryce Dallas Howard though as I usually do and even though she didn’t get a whole lot, she was impressive and displayed a few subtle acting choices in a few scenes.
The film itself would almost be a disaster if McConaughey was not at the helm though because other than not being memorable, it was also just fairly dull. You never get a real sense of immediacy despite the movie attempting to give off that feeling and it might just be due to the fact that the first 90 minutes or so were just so damn boring. McConaughey and Howard’s performances being good certainly helps with their chemistry for the first chunk of the movie but it is still hard to believe that these two people would ever fall for each other. The way in which the romantic subplot advances and is eventually wrapped up just distracts from the main story and doesn’t really add or detract from anything. The introduction of Edgar Ramirez into the film feels incredibly flat as well and really that’s just a microcosm for the film. I know I’m repeating myself a lot but that’s just how the whole thing feels: flat, lifeless, dull, not memorable. It’s not even that it’s particularly awful or anything.
There are a couple of plot twists late in the film and I will say that at least one of them worked for me. I’m obviously not going to go into more detail than that but it at least made sense in the context of the film and what we had gotten up to that point. The plot progresses at a snail’s pace overall though but does get more interesting in the third act. However, it’s hard to undo all the earlier lack of effort so it hampered my attempts to immerse myself in the film.
What else can I really say about this movie? I apologize that this is one of my shorter reviews but I really don’t have a whole lot else to say about it. Are there any decent parts? Sure, but they are few and far between. There’s a late scene in which McConaughey is tested before someone agrees to a business deal by coming face-to-face with a tiger. The scene is both tense and funny and he had one particular line that had me busting a gut pretty good. The movie also contains a few decent montages set to some appropriate soundtrack tunes. Whatever.
It’s just amusing to me that in a film where one actor delivers one of his most committed performances and displays a vast amount of passion for success that this could land on its face as it does here. If only the whole movie had been as interesting and captivating as McConaughey, we might’ve had a real solid early contender for the Top 10 for 2017. As it stands, it’s a very mediocre film that could have been so much more.
RATING: ** ½
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)