Review by Sean Boelman
Recent years have seen actors who weren’t taken seriously upon bursting onto the scene in the 2000s try to establish themselves as legitimate performers. Zac Efron has already made several attempts at straight-faced, “substantial” roles, and the post-apocalyptic Gold isn’t going to be the one to do it for him.
The film follows a drifter who finds himself in over his head when he must protect his discovery: the biggest gold nugget ever found. And while this may seem like a less action-packed version of a Mad Max wasteland, it’s really just quite dull and uneventful, which is the worst type of post-apocalyptic movie there can be.
Thankfully, the film is mercifully short at around an hour and a half before credits, but it meanders through that runtime in a way that is unsatisfying. By the time that anything super exciting happens, it is so close to the end of the movie that the third act has to be rushed. The script by Anthony Hayes and Polly Smyth leaves a lot to be desired.
The themes that the film explores about the depravity of humanity are about as basic and shallow as they come. The message basically boils down to the fact that greed corrupts people, and asking what wealth is truly worth. But it doesn’t have anything particularly substantial to say on the issue.
It doesn’t help that the characters in the movie are underdeveloped. When making a film with so little dialogue, it can be a challenge to get the audience interested in the characters, and this movie fails in even making the protagonist compelling. Worse yet, the supporting characters are completely unmemorable.
Efron’s performance is one of the few redeeming factors of the film. He does a solid job as the gruff drifter worn out by the world, getting a lot of nuance out of a script that doesn’t give him much to work with. Had he played the character as it was on the page, it likely would have made the movie even more boring.
Hayes makes some very deliberate decisions about the visual style with which he approaches this wasteland, but they are the wrong ones. The film looks overly muted and gray, and while it does utilize the scenery in which it is set relatively well, its style doesn’t feel distinctive within the genre.
Gold has a solid performance by Zac Efron at its core, but it doesn’t have the script to support him. It seems like Efron just can’t catch a break, because he keeps giving solid turns in movies that don’t give him what he needs to thrive.
Gold is now in theaters and on VOD.