The City of Gold does its best to be an action-packed adventure film, and despite some decent moments, it loses momentum towards the end.
The City of Gold is the latest film from Harry Locke IV (who has a very impressive-sounding name), who has directed many short films, and has been an editor, writer, cinematographer, and actor in various other projects. This action/adventure film has been penned by Ronald A. Blum, and it is his first writing credit, and it shows. The film is rather bloated; crammed full of different ideas and attempting several different genres; some of these ideas work, but the film begins to lose its steam towards the end and as a result, falls flat. There is plenty to admire here: The City of Gold looks like a high-end action film, and when the film doesn’t take it’s self so seriously, it is quite fun and entertaining in a B-movie old-fashioned serial type of way, with references to Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. Let’s just say, it’s not as bad Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
The film follows Jonathan Davenport (Robbie Allen), a tortured media mogul with some serious daddy issues who journeys with his ex-girlfriend Elisabeth (Riley Dandy) to the Amazon in the search of an artist (John Charles Meyer) that she admires. Despite their good intentions, the mission proves to be the harbinger of something dark and ominous rooted deep within Jonathan. The couple has to endure rebels, ancient curses, and the jungle; they soon find themselves taking on a new quest: to find the lost city of El Dorado. Aside from the pressures of the jungle, Jonathan also has to worry about having a mental breakdown and having visions of the past involving the brutal Inquisitor (Vernon Wells) who has a link to Jonathan.
Some critics have panned The City of Gold for attempting to be like a micro-budget Tomb Raider, but praise should be given to the filmmakers for having the ambition to take on the action/adventure genre. There are obvious issues with the limited budget, for example, the jungle location really doesn’t look like the Amazon rainforest and the majority of the deaths take place off-screen, in an attempt to save on the special effects budget. The film’s cinematography is quite impressive, with some beautiful aerial shots of the jungle, and quite effective use of a hand-held camera in the action scenes. There are a few minor problems concerning the editing, with one action sequence taking place at night being really confusing and hard to follow.
Allen is quite good playing the depressed rich boy who has it all. He’s moody and angry at the world; when we are first introduced to Jonathan he is sipping from a hip flask and trying to avoid the party that his father Richard (Christopher Atkins ) is hosting. Jonathan bitterly declares in a voice-over narration, ”I was taught that the meaning of life was power and money.” The character of Jonathan is the most developed character, but he’s hardly likable and it is hard to root for him towards the climax of the film. Still, Allen does his best with the material he is provided with. Riley Dandy’s performance is less impressive; her delivery of certain lines is quite off and she seems a little lost. Dandy also has to deliver what must be the most white girl privileged line ever uttered in a movie: ”Oh, you speak English? Thank God!” Dandy’s character starts off quite independent but towards the end of the film, she is reduced to standing around waiting to be rescued, and there is a serious lack of chemistry between her and Allen.
The supporting cast range in talent. Atkins’ screen time is brief but he is fairly decent as Jonathan’s father, and it is a shame that he isn’t in the film for longer. Wells camps it up as the evil Inquisitor, although it is a little odd that he has an English accent despite apparently being Spanish. John Charles Meyer is good as the tortured artist Jorge Escamilla, who paints haunting paintings of the past. Although other performances aren’t very memorable, and the characters are very forgettable, this is most likely down to the writing.
Overall, The City of Gold has a slightly predictable storyline which becomes unnecessarily convoluted for the sake of it. The animated scenes are a nice touch, but they seem a little out of place with the film’s tone. The film could have benefitted from having more comedy and a shorter runtime. There are moments where the film works quite well and is enjoyable, but it’s like watching someone else play a game of Uncharted and not being allowed a turn with the controller.