Matthew McConaughey is a second-rate actor who appears in crappy rom-com’s with posters that feature him leaning against his co-star a stupid grin on his face. It would be easy to believe this based on some of the terrible movies he has appeared in, but look a little deeper and you will se some great performances in interesting movies.
As with many people he first came to my attention in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Looking back now Richard Linklater’s ensemble cast looks impressive, however, the truly impressive thing is that they were unknowns at the time. The funniest and most charismatic of these, despite his reprehensible attitude towards high school girls was McConaughey’s David Wooderson. A Time to Kill is still my favourite movie based on a John Grisham novel, it is even more impressive when you consider it was directed by Joel Schumacher around the same time as he was fucking up the Batman franchise. McConaughey is perfectly cast as Jake Brigance, an easygoing but honourable southern lawyer who more than holds his own against an impressive cast including: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Donald Sutherland and Patrick McGoohan.
He followed this up with impressive performances in Lone Star (1996), Amistad (1997), Contact (1997) and a reunion with Richard Linklater in the true story of The Newton Boys (1998). Edtv (1999) was a sublime satire that is remarkably prophetic given the rise of reality TV in the decade that followed its release. It was sadly overshadowed by the previous years The Truman Show. Like his character Ed Pekurny in the show he stars in McConaughey’s is the reason to watch the movie, he is as perfect for the part as Jim Carrey was for Truman.
U-571 (2000) is a routine action, adventure, thriller, it has its issues but is largely enjoyable and gives us a first look at McConaughey in a more action orientated movie. Two films that best exemplify his action credentials are: the man v dragon movie Reign of Fire (2002) where he makes the future Batman and King Leonidas (Christian Bale and Gerard Butler) look like average Joe’s. It isn’t a great movie, but it is great fun. The same can be said for the underrated Sahara (2005). Based on a Clive Cussler novel, and featuring the character Dirk Pitt in his second movie outing (the first was played by Richard Jordan in the rubbish Raise the Titanic, 1980). A fun action adventure that is as close as anyone has ever come to emulating Indiana Jones. McConaughey has the right blend of hero and comedian and has great chemistry with co-stars Penélope Cruz and Steve Zahn. Sadly the film “underperformed” at the box-office and was beset with legal issues mainly involving author Clive Cussler making a sequel unlikely.
After a slew of the aforementioned crappy rom-com’s last year saw a return to form with an adaptation of the Michael Connelly novel The Lincoln Lawyer. Mick Haller is a sleazy defence attorney, radically different from the honourable boy scout Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill but no less charismatic. This year sees McConaughey take on three radically different roles: A cop with a sideline in murder for hire in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, a male stripper in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike and a journalist trying to exonerate a man on death row in The Paperboy.
So next time you see a picture of Matthew McConaughey leaning against his co-star on a movie poster of a film like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past or The Wedding Planner, give the guy a break and remind yourself that he has made some more interesting movies.