Tag Archives: Corey Stoll

Gold Rush

Hollywood sprinkles magic dust on real-life gem of a tale in ‘Gold’

GOLD

Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez star in ‘Gold.’

Gold
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramìrez & Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by Stephen Gaghan
R
Wide release Jan. 27, 2017

For his latest starring role, Matthew McConaughey is 12 years, a big belly and a world away from his 2005 title as People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

He on packed 40 pounds, shaved his head to wear a balding hairpiece, and popped in a mouthful of bad teeth to play Kenny Wells, a plucky, cigarette-huffing, third-generation Reno mineral prospector trying to hold onto the company his grandfather “scratched out of the side of a Nevada mountain.” But the late-’80s recession hits his company—built on the ups and downs of the commodities market—especially hard.

One night, at rock bottom after a bottle of tequila, Kenny has a dream—about gold on the Pacific island of Borneo, and Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramìrez, who played Dr. Abdic in The Girl on the Train), a maverick geologist he once met. Acosta has a wild theory about the fabulous riches to be found beneath the Earth’s “ring of fire.”

So Kenny, chasing his dream, hops a plane to the other side of the globe and partners up with Michael to go for the gold they both think is waiting for them through a rainforest, up a river, beneath a mountain, in a nation controlled by an unfriendly dictator and populated by headhunters.

GOLDThere’s more to Gold than just a treasure hunt, however. The story’s really only just beginning when Kenny and Michael strike it rich…

The movie is based on the 20th century’s most infamous gold mining scandal, which actually happened in the 1990s and centered on a Filipino prospector and a Canadian company, Bre-X Minerals. You probably never heard about it, unless you happened to see it on an episode of the History Channel’s Masterminds documentary TV series back in the early 2000s.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Kenny’s wife, who doesn’t really have much to do, except in one terrific scene in a lavish event. Corey Stoll, from TV’s The Strain, plays a smooth-operator investor trying to get a significant cut of Kenny and Michael’s fortune for his brokerage firm. Model-turned-actress Rachael Taylor, Stacey Keach, Craig T. Nelson and Bruce Greenwood round out the strong cast.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Kenny's wife.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Kenny’s wife.

Director Stephen Gaghan, whose Syriana (2005) helped George Clooney win an acting Oscar, builds a stylish house of cards, with shades of Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) and David O. Russell (American Hustle), a dash of Boiler Room and even a distant echo of The Sting. As the story zooms along, you get a sense of the mad rush of “gold fever” that sweeps up everyone and everything, especially Kenny.

And what a rags-to-riches rush it is: One day you’re rolling in the jungle muck of mud and malaria, the next you’re having sex in a helicopter, ringing the bell on Wall Street or taming a Bengal tiger. Throw in the FBI, a former American president, Michael McConaughey in his birthday suit, a soundtrack of obscure ’80s tunes by the Pixies, Joy Division, New Order and Richard Thompson, and you’ve got a quite an intoxicating swirl of Hollywood gold dust sprinkled atop a little-known gem from the real-world archives.

“The last card you turn over is the only one that matters,” Kenny tells a magazine interviewer. And his last card, in the final scene of Gold, is a doozy.

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Mob Mentality

Johnny Depp is riveting as Boston crime kingpin Whitey Bulger

WBL207_003.tifBlack Mass

Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch

Directed by Scott Cooper

R

In the crime underworld, there’s nothing lower than a rat—a snitch, a two-timer, an informer who sells his soul to save his skin.

Early in this powerful screen adaptation of the 2001 book by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, Irish-American hood “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) meets with FBI agent John Connelly (Joel Edgerton), who wants Bulger’s help in reeling in some even bigger fish—the Italian Mafia.

Connelly asks Bulger to become an informant. Bulger recoils. “Do you know what I do to rats?” he hisses.

BLACK MASS

Joel Edgerton (left) and Johnny Depp

The audience doesn’t, but we’ll soon find out. And if it’s anything like we just saw Bulger do to a guy who displeased him with some sloppy snack-food etiquette, we can guess it’ll be ugly, brutal and swift.

In Boston crime lore, James “Whitey” Bulger was a legend, a local neighborhood kid who became a fearsome underworld kingpin. A career criminal, he was a stone-cold killer who kept his South Boston crew, the Winter Hill Gang, busy with murder, extortion and drug dealing. But he could also be kind to old ladies, a loving father and a doting son.

Black Mass begins in 1975, and shows how Bulger did, indeed, become an informant, creating an unholy alliance that—ironically—expanded his criminal reign by giving him “protection,” and drawing agent Connelly dangerously deep into Bulger’s world. It also complicated things for Connelly’s childhood friend, the Massachusetts state senator (Benedict Cumberbatch) who happened to be Bulger’s younger brother.

Gangsters and crime movies are Hollywood staples, and there are characters and scenes in Black Mass that may indeed remind you of things that came before: The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Departed. But this gangster flick has something unique: Johnny Depp as one of modern history’s most infamous mobsters, reminding us how great he can be when he digs deep into a serious role.

Burying the memories of some of his broader, more flamboyant performances (Capt. Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, Edward Scissorhands, Tonto) behind piercing blue contact lenses, a yellowed front tooth, an artificially receding hairline and subtle facial prosthetics, he hones in and practically disappears into the part of the notorious, psychopathic crime boss. You get chills whenever he’s onscreen, especially in close-up, when his eyes can become as cold and menacing as any weapon.

BM-05267r

Dakota Johnson

The cast—which also includes Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Saarsgard, Jesse Pelmons, Rory Cochrane, Corey Stoll, Julianne Nicholson and Adam Scott—is uniformly strong. The stark, sophisticated cinematography, by master lensman Masonobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, The Grey, Warrior) basks in the bleak ’70 and ’80s grunge of the film’s Beantown settings and evokes the amoral chill of its tale. The set design captures all the details of the era, from the big American Fords, Lincolns, Dodges, Buicks and Chevys—the rides of choice of the mobsters—to the reel-to-reel recorders used by the Feds. Director Scott Cooper, who previously steered Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (2009), meticulously juggles the players and pieces of the sprawling, intense, character-driven story that sweeps across a full decade, with a postscript in 1995.

“Southie kids, we went straight from playing cops and robbers on the playground to doin’ it for real on the streets,” says one Bulger’s henchmen on the trajectory that led his boss and associates from tough childhoods in South Boston into careers of crime. That may not have turned out to be the best life choice, but it sure had the makings of one heck of a fine gangster movie, rats and all.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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