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Gold (Blu-ray Review)

Gold was a film that went through a bit of a lengthy journey to finally getting its way to production. Pitched as a more modern Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the film once had director Michael Mann attached to film it.  Mann eventually left it to film Blackhat.  Finally the film was made and released this past January to mixed reviews and a low box office (Though it had limited release to qualify for awards which in Oscar terms, it did nothing).  Most praised the continued excellence of Matthew McConaughey but didn’t find a lot else. Said performance was the one where he went horseshoe bald and gained 40 pounds for his role. You’ll be able to see for yourself when the movie comes to Blu-ray on May 2nd. You can pre-order using the Amazon link below if you so wish. 

Film 

By Aaron Neuwirth

By the end of Gold, I was more concerned with star Matthew McConaughey’s choice to invest himself into the character of Kenny Wells than the story I was just told. Given how the film is loosely based on the Bre-X mining scandal from 1993, seeing McConaughey develop a gut and shave his head to create a balding effect was puzzling. Did this amount of effort ultimately make the character (who has a physical resemblance to no real life figure) more interesting thematically? I did not really think so, which speaks more to how unremarkable this film felt as a whole.

As noted, McConaughey stars as Kenny Wells, an unlucky businessman who teams up with geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) on a whim, in an effort to find gold in Indonesian jungles. It turns out to potentially be one of the biggest finds on record, suddenly turning Wells into a prospecting/business superstar. Of course, the allure of a literal golden enterprise, in addition to pride and ego, make things much more complicated.

Gold was directed by Stephen Gaghan, who made a name for himself after earning an Oscar for writing 2000’s Traffic and would go on to write and direct 2005’s Syriana. Gold is his first film since, but he only serves as a director here. Given some of Gaghan’s other credits, he is almost something of a journeyman filmmaker, but I can see why he’d attach himself to Gold. That said, the film lacks the measured assurance in process found in his other films. There is also a resistance to embracing the gonzo energy McConaughey puts into his role, which could have made this film play more in line with the similarly themed (to a point) Wolf of Wall Street.

The presentation is unique. For one thing, I can’t exactly name too many films about late 20th century prospectors. Blending the adventure element into a familiar story about an ambitious male businessman who risks it all and loses key relationships was something fairly fresh. Robert Elswit’s cinematography does well to capture both the jungle locations found, in addition to the 80s atmosphere applied to America., as Kenny makes his rounds in both his hometown and Manhattan.

As far as this cast goes, again, the film fails to really capture the level of energy that should be coming out of this story. McConaughey does shine and while Ramirez still seems to be missing an element in his roles since Carlos that made him an actor to watch, the two have a friendship form that works. The rest of the actors are all over the place. Bryce Dallas Howard gets to play the longtime girlfriend who can’t travel as far down the rabbit hole as Kenny, so she’s eventually cast aside and given obligatory drama scenes. Corey Stoll, Stacy Keach, Bruce Greenwood, Toby Kebbell, Bill Camp, Craig T. Nelson and others are all around, but do little beyond spout dialogue at each other and keep the story moving. This is the kind of movie that could have actually used a lot more mugging.

Keeping this in mind, the film does manage to be engaging in parts. The first act is a bit sluggish, but things get moving and build up a level of energy that works. This is the McConaughey show overall and almost every scene in this film features him doing everything he can to make this into both an adventure in business of sorts and a character study. Still, the depths of this film are not exactly on the level of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and one can’t help but feel like they know where things are headed.

While Gold has been in development for some time, passing to a number of directors including Michael Mann and Spike Lee, one can’t help but see some modern relevance in a film chronicling the sudden rise of a man promising many the gold find of a lifetime and ending up disappointing so many others, given various actions and a personality. Less related, but interesting is the heavy focus on Kenny’s constant drinking and smoking. This is done to a near uncomfortable degree that emphasizes the period setting, sure, but I guess the image at least sticks in one’s mind.

Gold ultimately feels inconsequential, as the film doesn’t go wild enough with its cast and the chance to really make something more overtly comedic, given the material. Not helping is the lack of any real edge beyond having some jungle settings, to really set the film apart from others that deal with similar ideas. McConaughey steals the show in his performance, but his commitment and sacrifices for the role only go so far. He’s not a fool for taking on the part, but this film is far from getting a gold star.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Gold debuts on Blu-ray with a very pretty and very impressive image. Its one with razor sharp, crystal clear picture featuring the most specific of detailed information all over the place. Colors are the highlight, really jumping off the screen and lighting the room up. This is the best you can really even ask for, even a little bit above par for Anchor Bay who usually have a really good polished picture quality to begin with on their modern movie Blu-ray releases.

Depth:  Spacing is well done here, some of the tropical settings with camera sweeps look really rich and three dimensional at times. Movements are smooth and feature no real concerning blurring or jittering issues to take note of.

Black Levels:  Blacks are well saturated and have a solid deepness too them. Details are still discernible and plenty in darkness as well as darker surfaces and clothing. No crushing witnessed during this review.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are absolutely gorgeous in this image. Blues, reds, greens, purples, yellows…all different shades just lift off and pop right off the screen. Skies, clothing, grass, it all looks absolutely lovely and pleasing on the eyes. Who even know how much crazier this would have looked like with HDR enhancement put to it on a 4K Ultra HD release.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural, sometimes in very hot climates a little washed, and consistent throughout. Facial features like stubble, blemishes, make-up, lip texture, pores, freckles and more are clear as day in close ups and medium shots. Very window-like when its at its best.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Gold features a very nice 5.1 track that gives a real sense of liveliness to even some of the most basic scenery featured in the movie. For the most part its a balanced mix, with the vocals, effects and music rarely interrupted one another’s performance. Effects are good with their volume and feel a great deal of depth and layering in the foley detail.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer here primarily gets used with engines rumbling, doors closing, some scuffling and bass and drums in the score and music in the film.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This mix utilizes all 5 channels to really bring the environments visited to life. Bugs, wind, bristling of trees to telephones, doors and office sounds really provide a living in the moment with the characters kind of feel to watching the film. Its pretty impressive and ultimately accurate with motion, volume levels and sound placement.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is loud, crisp and clear. At a few intermittent times it can fall a little behind louder scoring moments (Some of the narrations), but its never not audible.

Extras 

Gold comes with the DVD edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film. Oddly, there is a PLAY ALL function for all the bonus features.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Stephen Gaghan

Deleted Sequence (HD, 5:18) 

The Origins Of Gold (HD, 4:37) – The director, writer and producer talk the origins of the story (modern Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and the struggles with finding someone to believe in and back the project.

The Locations Of Gold (HD, 4:20) – Stephen Gaghan, the producer and production and costume designers talk about the places where the film was shot.

Matthew McConaughey As Kenny Wells (HD, 3:45) – Matthew McConaughey and costars discuss his performance and weight gain he put on himself to do the role.

Summary 

Gold comes with a pretty solid Blu-ray release. The package comes with a pretty stellar performance as the audio and video are top notch. The extras featurettes are pretty brief and mostly fluffy, but do add a few interesting anecdotes. Rent the movie first and if you like it, find this Blu-ray at a decent discounted price and I’d say it would probably be worth it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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