Search:

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Gold

by Andrew Hudak

“Rings” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Most rags to riches movies start the main character off in the hard times, show how he or she got to the pinnacle of success, then show the downside/downfall from the main character’s own self-destruction or struggles with excess. “Gold,” inspired by true events, tells a rags to riches story, but without the typical formula.

In fact, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) stars off relatively successful. It’s 1981, and Kenny works for his dad (Craig T. Nelson) at Washoe Mining in Nevada. He shows promise, and while the old man may not have any immediate plans to retire, it appears that the company will be in good hands when he does. Wells is doing so well in prospecting that he can even afford a very nice gold watch for girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard).



Flash forward to 1988, and the good times are over. The father has passed away, and Kenny has moved the company to conduct business from a local bar where Kay’s a waitress. It’s not clear exactly what happened to cause this downfall, but here we are. Kenny even has to pawn Kay’s watch for a flight to Indonesia to meet with well-regarded geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez) in hopes of striking the mother lode in gold and turning his—and his company’s—fortunes around.

Strike the mother lode they do, which leads to all manner of business deals and negotiations with various players in the banking and mining industries who want a piece of the action. This is where the movie lags a bit, as the “riches” section never really sky rockets in the fun way that is expected. Of course, this is because the story of “Gold” does not follow that path. However, it would have energized the movie to see him at least spend some money on something. I know that I enjoy living vicariously through a character’s lavish lifestyle, and I’m sure many others do as well. The best thing we get is a scene in which Kenny takes Kay to an open field where he wants to build a house, and they get excited over how many kitchens they’re going to have and which direction they’ll face.

The big standout in “Gold” is McConaughey. He’s proven once again that he is an extremely brave and versatile actor. Kenny Wells is one of the more unappealing characters he’s played. Wells looks oafish with his thinning hair on top, long hair on the back and sides, and pot belly. He smokes and drinks constantly. Some of the people he conducts business with, such as Manhattan banker Brian Woolf (Corey Stoll) regard him as a clown who got lucky. After seeing a decision Kenny makes mid-way through the movie that comes down to nothing but pure hubris, it’s hard to disagree. The one thing that Kenny—by virtue of being played by McConaughey—has going for him is charisma. He is a very smooth talker with a winning smile. If he didn’t have those attributes, there wouldn’t be much left to like.

While “Gold” might lag a bit in the middle, it has a strong finish to complement its strong beginning. The intensity of the drama consistently builds for the last half hour or so of the movie and, like most rags to riches stories, the conclusion is a satisfying yet bittersweet one. Rent it.

Also New This Week

Rings

I can just hear the pitch right now for “Rings”: Take the theme and idea of “It Follows” and set it in the world of the “The Ring” movies. That’s pretty much what they did, only instead of filling the movie with intelligent, interesting characters, they filled it with narcissists and fools. Instead of creating a compelling, suspenseful narrative involving a mysterious force, they created a contrived, lackluster plot involving the ghost of a girl in a VHS tape. Though since it’s 2017, a digital copy of the tape has been made so that it can be spread via computer.

Fans of “The Big Bang Theory” will no doubt be disappointed to see their beloved Johnny Galecki as Gabriel, one of the aforementioned narcissists. He’s a college professor who is also a collector of vintage VHS tapes. Once he stumbles upon “the” tape, he actually creates multiple digital copies and experiments on unsuspecting students. He has a student watch the video, then gives them a “tail” to show the video to, and so on, and so on. As long as the student’s tail watches the video within seven days, the student is safe and the curse is passed on.

A young student named Holt (Alex Roe) is one of the unsuspecting victims. Before he dies or gets a tail to watch the video, girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) steps in to save him. The thing is, she is well aware of risk and knows what will happen if she watches. I believe that the intent of the scene in which she inevitably watches was supposed to come across as heroic and self-sacrificial. It didn’t. Rather, it came across as annoying, intrusive, and foolhardy. But if she didn’t watch, there wouldn’t have been much more left to the movie, which would not have been a bad thing. We certainly wouldn’t have gotten into the contrivance in which footage is added to Julia’s version of the video, leading into an investigation of ghost girl Samara (Bonnie Morgan) and the retired priest (Vincent D'Onofrio) of the town she is from.

Here’s how ineptly “Rings” is made: At one point, a character is pushed down some stairs. The visual cues given to us are that his neck is broken and that he’s dead. This is not one of those, “he’s just knocked out” kind of shots. It’s clear. Minutes later, this character is back for a surprise reveal. It’s like the filmmaker’s original intention was to have that character die, then had no idea how to end the movie without him, so they had to bring him back. An even better idea would have been to not make this movie at all. Skip it.

More New Releases: “I Am Not Your Negro,” director Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary about race relations in America, told by envisioning James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript for “Remember This House”; “A Dog’s Purpose,” in which a dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners, starring Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, and the voice of Josh Gad; “The Last Heist,” about a group of bank robbers trapped in a building with a homicidal maniac, starring Henry Rollins; and “Galaxy of Horrors,” anthology movie consisting of eight stories that a man is forced to watch while trapped in a damaged cryogenic pod in deep space.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

Cron Job Starts