There's one thing to love about McConaughey: the older he gets, the better he becomes. After years in the rom-com wilderness McConaughey has got his mojo back of late, and this mid-career renaissance possibly reaches its zenith (so far) with Dallas Buyers Club.
That's no mean achievement, given this run includes Killer Joe, Mud and a his theft of The Wolf of Wall Street. But in a riveting two hours in which he is almost never off screen, Dallas Buyers Club gives McConaughey has a film he totally owns. He plays Ron Woodroof, a redneck par excellence – homophobic, misogynistic, racist – whose drugged-up, casual sex-filled small world of rodeos and bullshit is turned upside down when he is diagnosed as HIV positive at the height of the 1980s AIDS scare, when Rock Hudson was on the front pages.
Initially dismissive of the diagnosis as news only "faggots" would receive, Woodroof soon becomes angry when he realises the extent to which the system is stacked against people in his position. Unable to access the drugs that can actually do some good, rather than the toxic substances that were being peddled by the big pharma companies Woodroof gets himself some learning and begins making dangerous runs across the Mexican border to bring back the sort of vitamins and supplements being refused him by the American Way.
Aided by the arch, unrecognisable cross-dressing Leto, and inspired by Garner's occasionally sympathetic doctor, Woodroof sets up a buyers club, enabling him to circumvent the law by giving away medicine in return for an annual fee. Dallas Buyers Club is the sort of inspired-by-true-events little-guy-against-the-system story that Hollywood loves, like Erin Brockovich or Milk.
But do not let that put you off – there is little schmaltz and plenty to enjoy, not least in how McConaughey brings pathos to both extremes of his character's personality, where there could easily have been stereotyping. This is McConaughey's moment. Increasingly emaciated as the illness takes hold though he may be, an energy radiates out of him as his fearful, ignorant friends desert him and he shakes the tree to try to get the government and the multi-billion dollar drug industry to listen to the voices of the desperate dispossessed.
If all that sounds a bit "issue movie", then rest assured – Dallas Buyers Club is a fantastic film about a remarkable man, portrayed with humanity by a wonderful performance.
EXTRAS ★ The very short behind-the-scenes featurette A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club (3:58); and three deleted scenes (4:55).