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'Gold' review: Zac Efron unrecognizable in tiresome isolation drama

Courtesy of Screen Media


Trying to lock down his version of “Cast Away,” “All is Lost,” or “Buried,” former Disney heartthrob Zac Efron is laying it all on the screen in arguably his most transformative role to date. Sadly, even that’s not enough. He stars in Anthony Hayes isolation drama “Gold,” a film about a pair of woefully unlucky men who stumble upon a life changing amount of gold in a wasteland where civilization is all but extinct. Efron chews up the screen for 99% of the movie with nobody else to lean on, save for a pack of vicious, rabid infested pups looking for a snack.

Shot in Australia and set in the not-so distant future where an unseen war has turned earth into a near apocalyptic playground, “Gold” attempts to showcase the lengths fellow survivors will go for greed. Efron and Hayes play drifters coasting on fumes across the badlands looking for greener pastures. During an unexpected stop, Efron’s character, only credited as “Man One,” finds a giant gold nugget cratered into the ground. It’s bigger than both men combined and will need more than a truck with a shoddy rope to extract. One needs to leave and the other must stay behind in case looters scavenge the area and discover their treasure trove.

Throughout “Gold,” the audience goes through prolonged periods of suffering alongside a sunbaked Efron who begins slipping into madness as his companion takes his time returning to base. While nothing is said about the remnants of the past war, l nuclear had something to do with it considering Efron’s skin boils and blisters. It’s also clear what Hayes is trying to say and his screenplay, which he co-wrote alongside partner Polly Smyth, doesn’t shy away from the metaphors of how lonely and dismayed the world can become, but “Gold” is such a miserable experience (and that’s probably the point), no amount of commitment from Efron can salvage a moody vanity project light on hope and filled with desperation.

Grade: C

GOLD is now playing in select theaters and available via digital.


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