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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Matthew McConaughey
Jennifer Garner
Jared Leto
Steve Zahn
Kevin Rankin
Denis O'Hare.
Directors
Jean-Marc Vallée.
Screenwriters
Craig Borten
Melisa Wallack.
Running Time
117 minutes

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Dallas Buyers Club
Pharma chameleon


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Plot
The true story of Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), a straight but promiscuous lowlife who discovers he is HIV positive in 1985 Texas. Refusing to accept the worst, he turns to blackmarket medicine and becomes the unlikeliest saviour.


Review
Dallas Buyers Club
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Matthew McConaughey's latest and starkest deployment of his newfound serious acting talent — Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Mud et al — risked tipping the renaissance into overkill. This looked like the full-immersion illness trip, Hollywood’s hackneyed passkey into awards season kudos, requiring but not limited to radical weight loss, the blip-blip backbeat of heart monitors and a journey of self-discovery in which the disease might destroy a body but a soul will be healed. Well, put your scorn on hold, for the irrepressible McConaughey has turned the notion of the victim narrative inside out with a wholly convincing portrayal of a bitter but unbreakable spirit.

Ron Woodroof is pure Texan trailer-trash, an oil company electrician trading former rodeo glories for cheap sex, hopped on crappy coke, heedless to his declining health until a chance work accident lands him in hospital. He awakens to the news he has 29 days to live. He is HIV positive, a diagnosis he at first refutes then defies. To realise Woodroof’s decline, McConaughey has stripped down to Christian Bale-in-The-Machinist extremes, the ultimate artistic gesture of self-distortion. He looks withered, a phantom of his familiar, gym-primped, eau du cologne-shifting self. That sun-baked rom-com lunk is fully renounced.

More important, however, is who he becomes. Abandoned by his cheapjack friends, fired from his job, Woodroof rejects despair and ventures to Mexico to source unsanctioned drugs, alternative treatments that stall the disease (a new form of drug addiction). Here he grasps an opportunity for a swift buck which reconfigures as heroism, creating the club of the title, a sly legal dodge in which the desperate flanks of AIDS sufferers at his door don’t buy the illicit medicine but pay a monthly fee for membership where the drugs are a perk.

We soon realise Woodroof is in possession of an agile mind, quick to decipher mystifying science and skewer hospital bluster. But by no means is he reformed. Through all his scheming, he remains a jackass. And McConaughey calculates that Woodroof’s obnoxious centre is another elixir on which he survives. For this is a study of living, not dying.

Shooting around the crummy backstreets of Dallas, Jean-Marc Vallée directs with a sports-movie vernacular of knockdowns and comebacks, plotting his melodrama in days — days spent still alive. His film is unpretentiously conventional in format. Events develop into a battle of wits between this wily Robin Hood, running his ruses from a fleabag motel, and the Federal Drug Agency suits pontificating over fine print. Yet there are magical, contemplative pauses — Woodroof at a Mexican clinic in a tank of butterflies struck by the wonder of life’s touch. At other times, it gains a goofy, capering note as he dodges customs disguised as a priest and (hopelessly) romances Jennifer Garner’s doctor with a twinkle of the faded Lothario, but it is another relationship that shapes the story.

To navigate his marketplace, Woodroof gains an unlikely guide in Jared Leto’s urbane transsexual Rayon, another AIDS victim refusing to be victimised. It’s a moving, indefinable, under any other circumstances inconceivable meeting of opposites, wherein Leto swirls an outrageous cocktail of Noël Coward and Britney Spears. As with McConaughey’s Woodroof, there is no gaudy sentiment, just a gallows-humoured coping mechanism in action, keeping despair and tragedy just at bay. You might describe the effect as feelgood-feelbad.


Verdict
Get this — Matthew McConaughey is currently the most exciting acting talent at work in movies. Next up, the simple business of a Christopher Nolan.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Dallas Buyers Club
Empire Star Rating

RE: McConaughey blown me away

The self-endorsed ‘McConnaisance’ is complete. Finally, after a hugely impressive (and admittedly unexpected) 3-year career re-build, Matthew McConnaughey positions himself in the top tier of American actors currently active in Hollywood and his latest offering, Dallas Buyers Club, is the vehicle that drives him there. McConnaughey’s always been effective onscreen but with last year’s Mud he proved he could dial down his tendency to act ‘at’ the audience and internalise emotion just as eff... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Biggus at 19:53, 10 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: McConaughey blown me away

Very good film but it's too long and I think the makers struggled to find an end to their story. ... More

Posted by musht at 10:20, 10 March 2014 | Report This Post


McConaughey blown me away

Matthew McConaughey for a long time as been one of my favourite actors, anything he is in I tend to enjoy (except for the numerous rubbish rom-coms but hey every ones got to pay the bills) this was no different. The story of Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed as HIV positive in the 1980s, The film explores Ron's attempts to not only survive his situation but make a lot of money from it buy selling unapproved medicine. Over the years there as been some great transformations from actors becoming a c... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R.A Roe at 14:50, 15 February 2014 | Report This Post


This based-on-a-true story tale of Ron Woodroof who, in 1985 Dallas, gets the sad news that he has AIDS and that he has only 30 days left to live. At first he tries to live them to the fullest but then he starts reading into and informing himself about this (trial)medication against AIDS. He`s convinced that this medication doesn`t work and he`s going to trie to find an alternative. With the help of a Mexico-based American doctor he`s supplied with vitamines and proteins. This combination does w... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 22:39, 13 February 2014 | Report This Post


Very good

Thought McConaughey was excellent, Leto, even more so. Really outstanding and unique aura. Only downside to this movie is Garner. What is she good for? That role could have been played by anyone, so why not just get anyone else in. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 00:12, 12 February 2014 | Report This Post


RE: --> Leto

I fully agree. Leto is easily the best thing about this film. The film itself is terrific though I felt some of the films scenes went on a little too long leaving it feeling a little laboured at times. I really believe in time it will be Leto who will be remembered for his performance, McConaughey is very good and creates a lot of sympathy and a heroic veneer for a fairly unlikeable guy but Leto does the same in a far more layered character. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pgmark at 12:10, 09 February 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Dallas Buyers Club

In this current day and age in which gay politics are a big deal, with AIDS is still a serious matter and gay marriage is far more open than it previously was, it would make sense that Jean-Marc Vallée’s latest Dallas Buyers Club would be a pleaser for this year’s Academy Awards, despite the original script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack had been around for over twenty years. In 1985 Dallas, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is diagnosed with AIDS and given thirty days to live. As a w... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:59, 08 February 2014 | Report This Post


RE: --> Leto

The film is solid, nothing more. McConaughey is outstanding but the direction and drama left so much to be desired. ... More

Posted by Coyleone at 01:04, 08 February 2014 | Report This Post


--> Leto

In my opinion, this review lays too much focus on McConaughey's performance. He plays well and his weight-loss is incredible, but what made the difference between a good movie and an outstanding one for me was the acting Leto delivered in every scene, most of which he completely dominated both with regard to sheer presence and emotional depth. If in years to come DBC is remembered, it will be for being the movie that won Leto his well-deserved (first?) Academy Award. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by maleachi at 10:32, 05 February 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Dallas Buyers Club

We have our tickets booked for Friday...after I saw it at err..a preview at the weekend. This reminded me in a strange way of Audiard's A Prophet. Difficult, unlikeable and unremitting at the beginning it all comes to together after patience is observed with the set up. Everything then exhibits an elemental perfection. If it was ] a film about an illegal drug network it would be excellent. If it was ] a film that set out to expose Federal incompetence it would still be excellent. ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 14:25, 03 February 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Why only 4 Stars.

L: fatboycheese Why only 4 Stars. Should be 5 stars. Maybe it's an Excellent film rather than an Unmissable one. ... More

Posted by UTB at 11:57, 03 February 2014 | Report This Post


Why only 4 Stars.

Should be 5 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fatboycheese at 11:37, 03 February 2014 | Report This Post


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