Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club


Cary, NC – Dallas Buyers Club tells the true story of Ron Woodroof, (Matthew McConaughey) a bull rider who in 1985 was diagnosed with HIV and was forced to go outside the system in order to get the treatment and medicine needed for both himself and others to survive.

McConaughey Impresses in Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey has been having a bit of a career resurgence lately. I’ve always enjoyed him, even his romantic comedies (most of them, anyway), but something changed after The Lincoln Lawyer in 2011.

All of a sudden he seemed to take himself and his career more seriously, starring in indie hits Bernie, Killer Joe, Mud and Magic Mike among others. All of which had a darker, more complex edge to them, and McConaughey delivered each time.

He outdoes himself in Dallas Buyers Club though, losing almost 40 pounds in the process. It’s easily the most dedicated he’s ever been, delivering a focused performance that delves deep into the panic of knowing you’re going to die as well as the determination to live once that panic passes.

Leto Is Even Better

Good as McConaughey is though, it’s Jared Leto (Fight Club, Alexander, Girl, Interrupted)  who brings the most emotional weight to the film as Rayon, a gay transvestite also struggling with the disease that becomes McConaughey’s unlikely ally.

Leto is absolutely heart breaking as the drug addict with a heart of gold. He gets McConaughey and the audience on his side fast with a sweet, sincere and street smart demeanor that makes his descent into addiction all the more devastating. It’s the best performance in a movie filled with great ones.

Great Performances, But Lack of Impact

Despite such strong performances though, Dallas Buyers Club struggles to have a lasting emotional impact. The film itself has a leisurely pace, one that allows you to take in everything the characters are going through along with them.

For some reason though, that pace is completely dropped for the ending, which speeds through what should be the film’s biggest moment, a court hearing determining the fate of Woodroof’s years long fight against the FDA. Granted, the film insists on a matter of fact tone throughout but , it’s a moment that deserved more, and the result ends up hurting the film more than it helps.

A Worthy Rental

I can’t quite recommend Dallas Buyers Club as a must see in theaters,  but it’s a film that is more than worth seeing at home just for the career best performances from both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.


Review by Jordan Hunt for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews.

7 replies
  1. Rene' Hart
    Rene' Hart says:

    The Screen Actors’ Guild nominations were announced today. DBC picked up two nods, one for Best Performance by a Cast (Film) and the other for Jared Leto, specifically — Best Supporting Actor (Film).

    Not bad for a guy who hasn’t done film in six years!

    P.S. Jordan, I, too, enjoy your reviews. Keep ’em coming!

    • Cynthia P. Barnett
      Cynthia P. Barnett says:

      My friend is talking about brutality in a way that goes deeper than the obvious. He clarifies:

      The movie is indeed compelling and enlightening. I’m glad I saw it, but haven’t recommended it to my usual movie-going friends because of the “rawness” or “emotional brutality.” The lifestyle of all of the characters is rough and disturbing — brutal — and hard to erase after leaving the theater. I saw Dallas Buyers Club immediately after I [finished seeing]Philomena. What a difference! I pondered both for several days in a different way. I’ve seen lots of movies filled with physical brutality, but I found Dallas Buyers Club filled with emotional brutality. To me it’s okay for movies to depict emotional brutality, but viewers should be warned. That’s the reason for my comments to you.

      • Jordan Hunt
        Jordan Hunt says:

        It’s a rough subject matter to be sure, and I can see how it could be a tough watch for viewers. Personally I didn’t find it to be an overly brutal emotional experience. Rather, I’d say it’s just an honest depiction of a person having to deal with having HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, which granted, is a truly frightening scenario. Also, I think the films positivity stood out to me a little more. The main character is told he has 30 days to live, and instead of sitting around and waiting he takes charge and decides to fight for his life. He remains a flawed character throughout, but that more than anything stood out to me.

        I hope that answers your question. I appreciate you commenting and giving your insight!

        • Cynthia P. Barnett
          Cynthia P. Barnett says:

          I like any reviewer who finds something positive, even inspiring, from a character who turns his/her lowest point into something better. Keep it up—many of us care how we spend our time and our money, even for entertainment.

  2. Rene' Hart
    Rene' Hart says:

    Aside from a few fist fights, I don’t recall physical brutality. Now, if you’re talking about the brutality of Big Pharma and the FDA in withholding potential treatments from a community of “dead men walking,” then there certainly wasn’t any shortage of that. I also recognize what could be considered brutality in the evolution (or destruction, as it were) of the character of Rayon, Ron Woodruff’s AIDS-afflicted, transgender business partner.

    The film pushes Woodruff’s transformation from staunch homophobe to compassionate ally and advocate without apology (although those descriptors are too generous, because this version of Woodruff did not stray far enough away from protecting his own interests to demonstrate a true sense of advocacy and kinship). The real transformation is in the background — Rayon’s playful, almost childlike demeanor when she is first introduced compared with her descent into addiction and self-destruction.

    I found Dallas Buyers Club to be a very compelling film — raw, visceral (especially the scene when Raymond/Rayon ingratiates himself to his father), and certainly worthy of the Oscar buzz surrounding McConaughey and, especially, Leto.

    One more thought. DBC is an independent film, although Focus Features is one of the most mainstream independents in the business today. Even so, you won’t find this film in the megaplex alongside Hunger Games and The Hobbit; it’s only playing at Carolina Theatre in Durham. Seeing it in this more refined, cultured venue just added to the experience for me. Beautiful theatre, beautiful film.

  3. Cynthia P. Barnett
    Cynthia P. Barnett says:

    I have not seen Dallas Buyers Club, but a friend, an intelligent movie critic, has warned me that it was one of the most “brutal” movies he’s ever seen. This friend is no shrinking violet about contextual violence and he recognizes that it sometimes seems necessary and integral to the story. Despite the film’s fine actors, he advised me not to see it.

    What is your take on the brutality in the film? I’m surprised you don’t mention it.

Comments are closed.