It may be the year of the girl, but it is also is potentially the the year of the shirtless Texan. Well, that is Matthew McConaughey who has a whopping slate of film with him either in starring or supporting roles: The well received but not well distributed Richard Linklater film Bernie, controversial Cannes title from director Lee Daniels, The Paperboy, Soderbergh male stripper drama, Magic Mike, William Friedkin’s over-the-top-noir Killer Joe and the sentimental slice of Americana from the director of Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories, Jeff Nicols’ Mud.
With his blondish locks and surfer-bod hiding some quite solid acting chops, Matthew McConaughey has had a strange career. Starting out as a post-high school douche-bag in Richard Linklater’s ensemble quasi-update of American Graffiti (by that yardstick, McConaughey was in the Harrison Ford role) and moving into micro-parts in stuff as far ranging as arthouse dramas (Lone Star) and goofball comedies (That Bill Murray Elephant flick, Larger Than Life) and even a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel with Rene Zellweger as well as significant supporting roles in populist crowd pleasers such as the John Grisham penned A Time To Kill, Stephen Spielberg’s Amistad and Robert Zemeckis’ Contact. Much like Alec Baldwin in the 1980s, Hollywood had a strong desire to turn his good looks into a conventional movie star, and went on to plug him into a string of at best forgettable, at worst, offensive, romantic comedies (The Wedding Planner, Failure To Launch, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Fools Gold) with a variety of starlets who have since failed to live up to promising debuts (Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner, and Kate Hudson…and did I mention, Kate Hudson?) Far more interesting, and almost as often, a director would use him to solid effect in a crazy character role, such as his crazy shaven-headed daredevil in the Disney Dragon film Reign of Fire, a witness to pure evil in Bill Paxton’s directorial debut Frailty or the most dedicated Hollywood agent on the planet in Tropic Thunder. But then there are middling misfires of Ron Howard’s The Truman Show doppelgänger , EdTV or colossal WTFs such as the legendary midget drama with Gary Oldman and Peter Dinkladge, Tiptoes (Seriously!).
Not quite hitting the career highs (or lows) of similar aging pretty boy Brad Pitt, and certainly finding a wider range of roles (and less tabloid trouble) than Owen Wilson, McConaughey has settled into a sort of Ace-In-The-Hole for various films, eschewing mega blockbusters after the massive failure to launch of a Dirk Pitt franchise with Sahara in favour of lower-key sleepers such as The Lincoln Lawyer. He is an actor I look forward to seeing in pretty much anything (barring those wretched Rom-Coms) these days, and he is due for a bit of a renaissance year for audiences savvy enough to find him in the multiplex or on the festival circuit.
My Top five is tucked under the seat.
My personal Rank’em may be subject to change after catching all of his upcoming titles (and I’ve not seen a few of his films such as Amistad, We Are Marshall, or U571) but for now…
5. Lone Star – for quiet menace and screen presence in a micro-role
4. Reign of Fire / Tropic Thunder (tie) – for crazy and zany (respectively)
3. Dazed and Confused – for charmingly believable douchebaggery
2. Contact – for intelligence and faith and playing second fiddle to Jodie Foster with grace
1. Killer Joe – scenery, meet pearly-whites (Wowsa-Wowsa!)