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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Matthew McConaughey

01.12.2014

Last week, we switched things up and explored the career of uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. This week, we put our focus back on the talent in front of the camera, with a re-evaluation of an actor many of us had written off years ago, but is now on his way to being a legend…

Matthew McConaughey

Two short years ago, Matthew McConaughey was a guy we had all written off. After a tiny, but memorable part in Richard Linklater’s DAZED & CONFUSED, McConaughey became a full-fledged star with his turn in Joel Schumacher’s John Grisham adaptation A TIME TO KILL. Many compared him to a young Paul Newman, and for a while it seemed they were right. He had it all. Women loved him, and guys appreciated his “tougher” roles in movies like REIGN OF FIRE and U-571. Somewhere it all went horribly wrong…

After HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS became a smash, McConaughey suddenly became Hollywood’s rom-com guy. His big attempt to become an action star with SAHARA flopped miserably, and he became stuck in a never ending series of generic studio comedies like FOOL’S GOLD and GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS’ PAST that required very little from him other than to act charming and take off his shirt whenever he could. The nadir of his career hit around the time his vanity project-SURFER DUDE- went direct to DVD. McConaughey’s talent was ridiculed everywhere, most infamously by Matt Damon’s spot on impression on David Letterman. McConaughey took it in stride, but the writing was on the wall.

Rather than give in and keep churning out rom-coms (which were still doing relatively well at the box office) McConaughey switched things up in a big way. His first step was to do THE LINCOLN LAWYER, which harkened back to his earlier roles, as well as a gem of a part in old pal Linklater’s BERNIE. But KILLER JOE was the real turning point. Even though it barely made a dent at the box office (no doubt thanks to its NC-17 rating) McConaughey’s performance drew raves. None of us thought he was capable of such a bizarrely humorous, twisted character but to say he pulled it off is an understatement. Following that, he made fun of his own “shirtless” days by sending himself up in MAGIC MIKE. Then- he starred in the indie breakout hit MUD for director Jeff Nichols, which, after seeing it, I proclaimed to be his best performance of all-time. As impossible as it seemed to me after seeing MUD at Sundance last year, it wouldn’t even be his best performance of the year…

His Best Performance

With DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, McConaughey did something drastic and dangerous. He shed forty-seven pounds to play a man dying of AIDS, which is no joke for a 44 year-old man. That said, if the performance had only been about the weight loss, it wouldn’t have resonated the way it has. Rather, McConaughey used the weight loss to forge an ingenious, difficult characterization of a hateful, bigoted man who becomes something of a hero in his dogged attempts to save his own life, inadvertently saving others in the process, even if it is (at first) for profit.

His Most Overrated Performance

Shortly after SAHARA, McConaughey tried to shake things up by doing WE ARE MARSHALL, a now-obscure football-drama, which was director McG’s big attempt to be taken seriously and was once considered an Oscar contender. At least, it was before people saw it. Nevertheless, McConaughey got a lot of credit for his performance as real-life football coach Jack Lengye. Personally, I thought his performance was as two-dimensional as any of his rom coms. Blame the material, or blame the fact that McConaughey’s career as a romantic lead was still too white-hot at the moment, but neither McConaughey nor the movie delivered.

His Most Underrated Performance

Prior to KILLER JOE, McConaughey did two change-of-pace roles that I thought were underrated. The first was the big “post-apocalyptic dragon” movie REIGN OF FIRE. A deliciously cheesy adventure film that cast McConaughey as a bald, insane dragon hunter opposite pre-stardom Christian Bale and Gerard Butler, REIGN was a flop with audiences, but I swear it’s worth a look if only for McConaughey’s bug-nuts performance. “Envy the country that has heroes??? I say pity the country that needs them!!!”

The other great performance McConaughey delivered during his “lost period” was in Bill Paxton’s directorial debut FRAILTY. Reading this, I bet the majority of you are saying “huh?” but I’m also sure a bunch of you are saying “f*ck yeah!” In this gothic thriller, McConaughey plays a man who, on a dark and stormy night, tells an FBI agent (played by Powers Boothe) about how his father (played by Paxton) and younger brother are axe murderers, claiming that the people they kill are demons revealed to them by God through a magical axe named Otis. If you haven’t seen this one, get ready for a treat, and one of the best twist endings of all-time.

His Most Memorable Scene

For this one, I have to pick McConaughey’s one-scene (well, one and a half) performance is Martin Scorsese’s brilliant THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. His coke and booze-fueled lunch with Jordan Belfort, where among other things his advocates cocaine and masturbation as the key to financial success, is a master-class in acting, in addition to being full-on hilarious. While it’s probably too tiny a part to go in my top 5 below, I couldn’t imagine any other scene being here. Sadly, being such a new movie I’ve only got a tiny part of the scene (a taste if you will) to show you what I mean.


His Top-Five Performances

5. A TIME TO KILL
4. FRAILTY
3. KILLER JOE
2. MUD
1. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Up Next

McConaughey’s just started a run on HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE that- depending on how the rest of the show plays out- just might overtake DALLAS BUYERS CLUB as his best performance. Based on the first three episodes (which I was lucky enough to get an early look at) that’s a very real possibility. Oh, and he’s also got a little movie coming out called INTERSTELLAR directed by some guy named Christopher Nolan. Ever hear of him?

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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10:48PM on 02/11/2014

Ziplok

Whoever wrote this page really needs to GET THEIR FACTS STRAIGHT!!!
Damon and Matt are hella close, and D wasn't "ridiculing" Matthew on Letterman, it was a friendly poke/joke and it was MADE VERY CLEAR that's all it was. For u ppl to sit there twisting it into something in wasn't/isn't is little more than a desperate PLOY to get viewers/readers.. I'm not a huge MM fan or anything,, but I DO know that he's pretty well respected across the board, and that isn't @ all the picture you're trying
Whoever wrote this page really needs to GET THEIR FACTS STRAIGHT!!!
Damon and Matt are hella close, and D wasn't "ridiculing" Matthew on Letterman, it was a friendly poke/joke and it was MADE VERY CLEAR that's all it was. For u ppl to sit there twisting it into something in wasn't/isn't is little more than a desperate PLOY to get viewers/readers.. I'm not a huge MM fan or anything,, but I DO know that he's pretty well respected across the board, and that isn't @ all the picture you're trying to paint here. You're exactly what's wrong with the industry these days. FOOLS like you skirt the 'freedom of speech', coming very close to being defamatory by means of false (libel) [link] which have the potential to degrade his character. This site's a total JOKE in my opinion, and I only registered to post this.
If it's removed - I'll just dump my ip and post it again under a different account, each time posting more & more replies.
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11:16PM on 01/13/2014
A Time to Kill, easily his best performance. Reign of Fire was cool, I just wish the movie about dragons, well, had more dragons lol.
A Time to Kill, easily his best performance. Reign of Fire was cool, I just wish the movie about dragons, well, had more dragons lol.
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9:43PM on 01/13/2014

Loved him in Operation Dumbo Drop

Tip-Top Tucker
Tip-Top Tucker
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6:11PM on 01/13/2014

Reign of Fire and Frailty

Both incredible movies that everyone should give a shot and watch. Reign is watched every year along with Ghost and the Darkness - Frailty is every 2. Great article.
Both incredible movies that everyone should give a shot and watch. Reign is watched every year along with Ghost and the Darkness - Frailty is every 2. Great article.
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1:45PM on 01/13/2014
Frailty is such a sick movie.

also gotta love his tropic thunder 'n Eastbound n Down appearances
Frailty is such a sick movie.

also gotta love his tropic thunder 'n Eastbound n Down appearances
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1:37PM on 01/13/2014
The reason why REIGN IF FIRE flopped is because of its bad release:
Disney bought the distribution rights of this mostly British film but didn't know how to sell it to the audience... Look at its poster... They tried to sell us this 'Mad Max with dragons' like if it was 'Independence Day with dragons'...
The reason why REIGN IF FIRE flopped is because of its bad release:
Disney bought the distribution rights of this mostly British film but didn't know how to sell it to the audience... Look at its poster... They tried to sell us this 'Mad Max with dragons' like if it was 'Independence Day with dragons'...
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1:30PM on 01/13/2014
The reason why REIGN IF FIRE flopped is because of its bad release:
Disney bought the distribution rights of this mostly British film but didn't know how to sell it to the audience... Look at its poster... They tried to sell us this 'Mad Max with dragons' like if it was 'Independence Day with dragons'...
The reason why REIGN IF FIRE flopped is because of its bad release:
Disney bought the distribution rights of this mostly British film but didn't know how to sell it to the audience... Look at its poster... They tried to sell us this 'Mad Max with dragons' like if it was 'Independence Day with dragons'...
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10:31AM on 01/13/2014
Nowadays, anytime I read about praise for Matthew McConaughey's career renaissance, I smile. I've always been in his corner, even if I wasn't a fan of his rom-com output. A Time to Kill, Lone Star, Amistad, Contact, those were all movies that showed promise. Still, even I had maybe written him off as more charming than talented. Watching him now, everything he does feels like I 'm watching one of the best actors in the business. That's just surreal, but it also feels good to be vindicated for
Nowadays, anytime I read about praise for Matthew McConaughey's career renaissance, I smile. I've always been in his corner, even if I wasn't a fan of his rom-com output. A Time to Kill, Lone Star, Amistad, Contact, those were all movies that showed promise. Still, even I had maybe written him off as more charming than talented. Watching him now, everything he does feels like I 'm watching one of the best actors in the business. That's just surreal, but it also feels good to be vindicated for believing in him.
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10:03AM on 01/13/2014
I also agree with others below that Amistad is his underrated performance. He was excellent in that. Glad to see him going back to what he used to be before romcom hell....Time to Kill, Contact & Amistad all showed what he could be, which is an excellent actor. Watched True Detective last night and am very much looking forward to the next 7 episodes. His character is very eccentric and slightly off, dying to see how he ended up the way he is in the interview parts.
I also agree with others below that Amistad is his underrated performance. He was excellent in that. Glad to see him going back to what he used to be before romcom hell....Time to Kill, Contact & Amistad all showed what he could be, which is an excellent actor. Watched True Detective last night and am very much looking forward to the next 7 episodes. His character is very eccentric and slightly off, dying to see how he ended up the way he is in the interview parts.
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8:24AM on 01/13/2014
Hmm, a little over a year ago Matthew was a defendant on joblo.com's movie jail [link]. Now, he has one great year and all of a sudden he's "badass"? I have loved watching the actor's resurgence as much as everyone else. MUD was one of the best films of the year and all the more so for his performance. I'm just being a little cautious. He has the talent necessary to stay one of the best actors around, but will he? Or will the beckoning call of the Rom-com paycheck be too loud to ignore? I hope
Hmm, a little over a year ago Matthew was a defendant on joblo.com's movie jail [link]. Now, he has one great year and all of a sudden he's "badass"? I have loved watching the actor's resurgence as much as everyone else. MUD was one of the best films of the year and all the more so for his performance. I'm just being a little cautious. He has the talent necessary to stay one of the best actors around, but will he? Or will the beckoning call of the Rom-com paycheck be too loud to ignore? I hope not.
1. Mud
2. Amistad
3. The Lincoln Lawyer
4. Tropic Thunder
5. EdTV
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9:21AM on 01/13/2014
The resurgence actually came in 2011, starting with Lincoln Lawyer. That Movie Jail article was ill-conceived.
The resurgence actually came in 2011, starting with Lincoln Lawyer. That Movie Jail article was ill-conceived.
10:14AM on 01/13/2014
I'm with BrokenDreamer on this. And most everyone called 'em out for even trying him.
I'm with BrokenDreamer on this. And most everyone called 'em out for even trying him.
6:08AM on 01/13/2014
Not to forget contact??
Not to forget contact??
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4:42AM on 01/13/2014
He has proven himself over and over again. His performance in Dallas Buyer's Club should, deservedly, win him the Oscar.

Oh and Frailty? fuck yeah!
He has proven himself over and over again. His performance in Dallas Buyer's Club should, deservedly, win him the Oscar.

Oh and Frailty? fuck yeah!
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4:40AM on 01/13/2014
Yeah! Effin Yeah for shouting out to Frailty. I love that movie. That's one of Matthew McConaughey's best performance. I also love him in A Time To Kill and Reign of Fire is very underrated indeed.
Yeah! Effin Yeah for shouting out to Frailty. I love that movie. That's one of Matthew McConaughey's best performance. I also love him in A Time To Kill and Reign of Fire is very underrated indeed.
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4:16AM on 01/13/2014
Idk why I havent seen Frality yet, I've heard nothing but good things about it.
But my favorite role is Killer Joe, when I tell people you wanna see a game changing career performance from anyone watch his performance in that movie, just in all balls to the wall no bullshit
Idk why I havent seen Frality yet, I've heard nothing but good things about it.
But my favorite role is Killer Joe, when I tell people you wanna see a game changing career performance from anyone watch his performance in that movie, just in all balls to the wall no bullshit
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3:39AM on 01/13/2014

Never wrote the guy off.

Always been a fan, even during the slumps.
Always been a fan, even during the slumps.
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1:09AM on 01/13/2014

This is a Ben Afflack sized comeback!!!!!!!

I actually enjoyed SAHARA and FOOLS GOLD (guilty guilty guilty pleasure)!! I forgot how big of a badass McConaughey was in REIGN OF FIRE, I'd love to see him in another balls out action movie.
I actually enjoyed SAHARA and FOOLS GOLD (guilty guilty guilty pleasure)!! I forgot how big of a badass McConaughey was in REIGN OF FIRE, I'd love to see him in another balls out action movie.
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1:01AM on 01/13/2014
i loved him in reign of fire
i loved him in reign of fire
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12:50AM on 01/13/2014
He fought his way out of rom-com purgatory and I say good for him. Really liked his performance in Amistad. He seems to be really good at playing lawyers, if that film, a Time to Kill and The Lincoln Lawyer are anything to go by.
He fought his way out of rom-com purgatory and I say good for him. Really liked his performance in Amistad. He seems to be really good at playing lawyers, if that film, a Time to Kill and The Lincoln Lawyer are anything to go by.
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12:20AM on 01/13/2014
So glad he turned a 180 with his career and is now one of the best, most consistent actors working today.

My favorite film and performance of his is a tie with me...Dazed and Confused and A Time to Kill. Two classic films with dynamite performances from McConaughey.
So glad he turned a 180 with his career and is now one of the best, most consistent actors working today.

My favorite film and performance of his is a tie with me...Dazed and Confused and A Time to Kill. Two classic films with dynamite performances from McConaughey.
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12:19AM on 01/13/2014

So happy for him.

I can't think of a more incredible comeback than his. He is on a roll unlike any other.
I can't think of a more incredible comeback than his. He is on a roll unlike any other.
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12:00AM on 01/13/2014
I know I may get killed for it(thumbs down.), but I love "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past". It's a wicked guilty pleasure. And "Frailty" is as you said underrated, really like that movie too. But yeah he has definitely stepped up his game as of late. I cannot wait to see him in "Interstellar".
I know I may get killed for it(thumbs down.), but I love "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past". It's a wicked guilty pleasure. And "Frailty" is as you said underrated, really like that movie too. But yeah he has definitely stepped up his game as of late. I cannot wait to see him in "Interstellar".
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12:23PM on 01/13/2014
One of the few pleasures of watching GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST was seeing how well he played against Jennifer Garner. It was one of those situations that reminded me just how good he was, and how annoying that he was wasting his time in crappy rom-coms. Oh yes, and Emma Stone killed as his first girlfriend.
One of the few pleasures of watching GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST was seeing how well he played against Jennifer Garner. It was one of those situations that reminded me just how good he was, and how annoying that he was wasting his time in crappy rom-coms. Oh yes, and Emma Stone killed as his first girlfriend.
11:43PM on 01/12/2014
If you told me 5 years ago that he would be one of the most interesting actors today, I'd laugh in your face. Glad the guy turned his career around. I think Time to Kill is still my favorite of his, with Amistad being the underrated film. I think his part in Magic Mike would be my overrated pick, and BTW he didn't get an Oscar nomination for that. Got the first episode of True Detective on my DVR and can't wait to see it.
If you told me 5 years ago that he would be one of the most interesting actors today, I'd laugh in your face. Glad the guy turned his career around. I think Time to Kill is still my favorite of his, with Amistad being the underrated film. I think his part in Magic Mike would be my overrated pick, and BTW he didn't get an Oscar nomination for that. Got the first episode of True Detective on my DVR and can't wait to see it.
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