For years Matthew McConaughey was known for the ever more dubious reasons to appear shirtless in his films but despite the wilderness romcom years of Fool’s Gold, The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days there are a number of roles which have shown there is more to this actor than his abs.
Case in point is his recent run of films including as the duplicitous killer cop in Killer Joe, as a fiery and flamboyant stripper in Magic Mike and the enigmatic central character, a fugitive looking for his love, in Jeff Nichols’ Mud.
Nichols’ previous films, the audacious Shotgun Stories and the slow burning madness of Take Shelter, benefitted from the masterful Michael Shannon and for his third film the director employed McConaughey at the height of his renaissance to draw a dark line through the lives of two Arkansas teenagers. The film is a beautiful evocation of the timeless tow of love, friendship and discovery set against the harsh rural landscape of The Natural State.
Here’s a clip from Mud to get you in the mood, the film is out today on DVD and Blu-ray and comes highly recommended.
We’ve taken a look back at some of the standout performances from Mr. McConaughey and have included some clips of his work.
William Friedkin’s blistering Texas hitman drama runs through the clichés of trailer trash and corrupted cops in his adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play. The casting of McConaughey is key here and, as the subsequent choices will hopefully expound, a meaty script and a refusal to align to stereotype gives McConaughey his greatest moments.
The Lincoln Lawyer
This was the start of the McConaucomeback and it was evidence that his turn in Tropic Thunder actually did point to a rescue from the quagmire of abs’n’teeth which were prevalent in previous years. Brad Furman’s tense courtroom drama n asked that McConaughey walk the line between his salacious past and a return to a quiet, determined force. He is undoubtedly helped by the strength of his co-stars Ryan Phillipe, another actor whose looks often overshadow the more interesting substance only sometimes drawn to the surface, and William H. Macy who appears in the scene with McConaughey below.
More support for the theory that the often uncharted depths of McConaughey need to be plundered by a strong, imaginative director such as Steven Soderbergh. Again playing on the very physicality which caused the actor to fade from view in the previous decade Soderbergh shines a light through the facade and out comes the peacockesque Dallas, who here offers his advice to one of his new charges.
Dazed and Confused
Here we go all the way back to the beginning with Richard Linklater’s celebrated follow up to Slacker and 1993’s Dazed and Confused. In creating the shady Wooderson McConaughey displayed a number of traits which would work for him throughout his career, there is a notable difficulty in playing a likable sleazy git with odd hair and have people want to dress up like him twenty years later. Seriously – check this out…
Linklater’s words and McConaughey’s lascivious demeanour created a prominent character in early 90s cinema and though the actor fled the pigeonhole very quickly it’s a nice reminder that he can do more, much more than flash a smile and rip off his shirt.