Sunday 25 February 2018

McConaughey really hams it up in 'Gold'

* Gold (15A, 121mins), 3 Stars
* Toni Erdmann (16, 163mins), 4 Stars
* Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (15A, 106mins), 1 Star

Going for gold: Matthew McConaughey's hair and belly might merit an award, but his performance doesn't
Going for gold: Matthew McConaughey's hair and belly might merit an award, but his performance doesn't

Paul Whitington

Could that fat guy be Matthew McConaughey, I asked myself as Gold got underway. It could, because the whispering Texan has physically transformed himself yet again in this overripe drama - loosely based on real events. Mister Mac puts on 50lbs and a bald wig to transform himself into Kenny Wells, a Texan oilman who seems all set up when he inherits the family prospecting business. But it's 1987, the stock market crashes, and a year later, Kenny is working from home and drinking bourbon by the bucketful.

He's just about washed up when he hears about a maverick geologist called Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), who's convinced that a huge seam of untapped gold lies hidden beneath the jungles of Borneo, but can't get anyone to believe him. Kenny does, and they hack their way through the undergrowth to establish a mine on a wing and a prayer. They strike gold, Wall Street starts sniffing around and Kenny hits the big time, but the question is will he be able to deal with it?

Atmospheric, but rather glibly directed, Gold is fun but sometimes feels like a feature-length episode of Dallas. Ramirez and McConaughey establish a nice rapport, and Bryce Dallas Howard provides a dash of soul, playing Kenny's sainted girlfriend.

But the screenplay rather throws away the story's twists and turns, and while McConaughey's belly might merit an award or two, his performance doesn't.

There's something delightfully strange about Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, a German comedy with hidden depths. It could be seen as an existential fable, or an account of a very public breakdown, but really it's about a father's quest to regain his daughter's love. Veteran actor Peter Simonichek is Winifried, a divorced German schoolteacher whose fondness for fright wigs and practical jokes is tolerated by his family and friends.

When his high-flying daughter Ines (the excellent Sandra Huller) returns to visit from Bucharest, where she's working as a consultant, she winces whenever her father tries to catch her attention: the false teeth and fart cushions she loved him for as a child have clearly become tiresome, even unbearable, now. They part coldly, but Winifried doesn't leave it there, and a week later shows up in Romania as a 'surprise'. Ines is not pleased, and after an awkward few days of cohabitation, asks her dad to leave. Instead he turns up again, wearing a ludicrous wig and insisting he's a marketing mogul called Toni Erdmann. He shows up at parties, inveigles his way into her work life, and as his persona threatens to take Winifried over, Ines starts to realise she might be more like him than she thinks.

At two hours and 43 minutes, Toni Erdmann may test the patience of some, but it's a wise, insightful, boldly eccentric and, at times, hilarious film that raises all sorts of interesting questions.

The sixth instalment in a dystopian sci-fi franchise that's been pottering on now for well over a decade, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter starts where the last film ended, with a terrible virus having wiped out most of the world's human population and turned the rest into zombies. The T-Virus was man-made, by a sinister outfit called the Umbrella Corporation, and Alice (Milla Jovovich) was injected with it and turned into an avenging warrior queen.

Betrayed by Umbrella time and again, she's out for revenge when the corporation's computer contacts her with devastating news. Dr Alexander Issacs (Iain Glen) plans to wipe out the remaining human survivors so that he and a rich elite can repopulate a scorched Earth, and only she can stop him.

This is badly directed stuff: frenetic editing makes the innumerable fight scenes incomprehensible, and gratuitous sadism underpins a sorry exercise.

Irish Independent

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