Screenwriter: John Claflin, Daniel Zelnan, Andy Tennant
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland
Running Time: 112 mins
Fool's Gold continues Hollywood's recent fascination with the treasure hunt. Nicolas Cage has twice explored American secrets in the National Treasure films, Tom Hanks pursued a religious artifact in The Da Vinci Code and Matthew McConaughey zoned in on a Civil War battleship in Sahara.
This film revolves around a pair of treasure hunters who've spent their life searching for the Aurelia, a sunken ship carrying a haul of treasure known as the Queen's Dowry. It kicks off with McConaughey's 'Finn' and Kate Hudson's Tess getting divorced. Tess is tired of the quest, she longs to leave Finn behind and complete her doctorate - she moves on by finding work as a steward on the yacht of tycoon Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland).
Finn, on the other hand, is more eager than ever to find the sunken booty. He is in major debt to his sponsor, the fast-talking gangster rapper Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart). After acrobatically rescuing a hat for Honeycutt's daughter Gemma, he's taken aboard the yacht. There he reunites with Hudson and the pair explain to Nigel about their quest for the Aurelia. A race for the gold ensues with Finn and Tess facing opposition from Bigg Bunny’s crew and their former mentor Moe (Ray Winstone).
Fool's Gold is riddled with plot contrivances, inconsistencies and a general lack of momentum. Inspired by rip-roaring adventure yarn Romancing the Stone, it commits the cardinal genre sin of plodding along at a the speed of an asthmatic marathon runner. Take, for instance, a scene where Finn and Tess convince Nigel to help them find the treasure - it's a crucial part of any adventure film where the "MacGuffin" (the Hitchcock-named plot device that propels the story) is explained. It goes on… and on and on for at least 15 minutes and brings the film, which is already running at a languid pace, to a grinding halt.
Tess's behaviour is wildly inconsistent. After finding Finn onboard the yacht she has a near-mental breakdown, hurling dinner plates across the table and storming off. Minutes later she's serenely sat next to her ex telling Nigel how great their marriage used to be. Ray Winstone, carrying a US accent that can't escape North London, enters the film as an antagonist but takes little convincing to become an ally.
Director Andy Tennant shoots Australia (doubling for the Caribbean) with sun-bleached worship. It's location porn for globetrotters. Despite an eye for scenery, he wrestles with tonal issues throughout, not sure entirely who his film is aimed at. It's frothy and light for the most part, yet there's some oddly grim moments, particularly when one of Bigg Bunny's goons is killed in an erupting geyser, spraying blood and water skyward.
Donald Sutherland is good value as the English toff Honeycutt while Alexis Dziena plays his daughter with ditzy glee - her character an amalgam of tabloid fodder celebs. As father and daughter, the characters have a strained relationship and, though they reconcile by the end, it's not much of a satisfying pay-off. Ewan Bremner's Alfonz isn't convinced by Moe's declaration that he's the "Ukranian sidekick". "I prefer to think of myself as the lead character in my own film," he replies with throwaway postmodernism.
For McConaughey, Fool's Gold is a safe bet, unlikely to dent his leading-man status. It's the second time he's played a reserve team Indiana Jones and he'll likely do it again in the big-screen Magnum PI remake (replacing Tom Selleck, the man who almost was Indy). Hudson is in desperate need of a role as good as her 2000 breakthrough Almost Famous.
At one point in Fool's Gold Hudson's character tells McCounaughey his "uselessness is epic". It’s not quite an apt description of the film but it's close. With exotic locations and a Bob Marley soundtrack Fool's Gold is an ideal in-flight movie en route to a sunny getaway. Since many airlines chose to cut footage of air crashes, it's debatable whether the only truly exciting part of Fool's Gold, its climax, featuring a seaplane plummeting into the ocean, would make it into that airborne version.