August 14, 2012
The Dennis Hopper-ification of McConaughey
2012 is the year of Matthew McConaughey. Not the McConaughey of bland romantic comedies co-starring Kate Hudson or Jennifer Lopez, but the McConaughey of strange, surprising, dark, dirty movies where his Texan charisma has a serpentine streak, and audiences get unprecedented exposure to his ball sack.
I watched Killer Joe last night. McConaughey plays the title character, a Dallas detective who moonlights as a hired killer. This movie got an NC-17 rating, which we hardly ever see anymore, but this one really deserves it. There's a ton of brutal violence and leering menace, with clear shots of the aforementioned McConau-junk, but I'm guessing what earned the rating are a couple of scenes of sexual engagement that are at times so disturbing and inexplicable that I can't say for sure if I understood what was going on, but I'm positive it was filthy. McConaughey delightfully describes his character as a "black panther", by which I think he means a mysterious and dangerous animal, not a '60's revolutionary leftist. He's a sadistic sociopath, but at the same time he's so controlled and dominating that he's magnetic to watch.
See that black leather jacket McConaughey's wearing above? Check this out:
It took Dennis Hopper decades of cultivating his particular brand of wild, unpredictable genius to become the only actor who could play Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. We knew he was talented (Easy Rider, Cool Hand Luke, a million Westerns) but we also knew he was a maniac (Apocalypse Now, a seemingly impossible daily drug intake, the time he blew himself up with dynamite.) Then in 1986, David Lynch cast him as Frank Booth. Next he was in River's Edge as Feck, a reclusive delusional murderer in love with a blow-up doll. Dennis Hopper was back.
I feel like McConaughey is having a similar moment. He's spent all these years cementing his brand as the flamboyant golden-boy stoner, shirtless in a do-rag, holding a surfboard, playing the bongos, and supporting his lifestyle with endless disposable crappy movies that make tons of money. But all the while, he was building that charismatic energy into a force field of gonzo intense star power. Enter: Steven Soderbergh and Magic Mike. McConaughey plays the owner/MC at a male strip club who is actually named Dallas, a role so consummately made for him that it would teeter into self-parody if McConaughey wasn't so irresistibly, sleazily charming. Plus, the ball sack.
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