THE cowboy hat and Texan drawl maybe the same, but Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club is a radically different animal from the romantic comedies that clogged up the Noughties.
Sealing his well-documented ‘McConaissance’ from shirtless bongo-playing featherweight rom-com lead into award-laden character actor with gravitas, McConaughey is hypnotic as womanising, redneck rodeo electrician Ron Woodroof.
Admitted to hospital after a work accident in 1985, Woodroof reacts in macho anger and disbelief when face-masked, rubber glove wearing doctors tell him he has tested HIV-positive and has 30 days to live.
A mainstream film would have cast this unpleasant individual in a heroic light, a Robin Hood champion of American civil liberties as The People vs. Larry Flynt did.
But with low budget comes no responsibilities to the studio and Woodroof is portrayed as a born hustler who knows greasing the right palms will sideswipe laws and ethics.
He is as capitalist as the Big Pharma corporations peddling their snake oil in HIV drug trials at the hospital where composite-character Eve Saks (Garner), a questioning doctor, works.
Woodroof exploits a loophole where HIV-stalling alternative drugs are unlicensed by the authorities, but not illegal, and forms a club of similar sufferers where pills are the perks of monthly membership.
A right-wing Lone Star rebel against the federal Government.
He supplies a desperate market of the afflicted with a better product, undercuts the competition and makes a fortune. Dallas Buyers Club is a jaundiced take on the American Dream.
Leto is just as much a revelation as McConaughey in a scene-stealing supporting role as the fictional transgender Aids patient Rayon, who strikes up an odd couple business partnership with the homophobic Woodroof.
Vallee’s shaky camera and selective use of music lend the movie the authority of a documentary, although this “based on a true story” is embellished to turn messy life into a dramatic arc.
The final diagnosis is Dallas Buyers Club lingers in the memory because of its convincing, almost masochistic, central performances and its human story of victims refusing to be victimised.
FOUR POPCORNS OUT OF FIVE
Dallas Buyers Club (R16)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Mr Nobody), Jennifer Garner (The Odd Life of Timothy Green)
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee (Cafe de Flore, The Young Victoria)
Screening: Dorothy Brown’s Cinema, Arrowtown