It's hard to remember the fear, mistrust, and misinformation that floated around at the beginning of the AIDS crisis in America.  Dallas Buyers Club is an entertaining and engrossing look at an unlikely hero from that time.

Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a piece of work.  Living in Texas in 1985, Ron was an electrician by trade, a hustler by nature, and a trailer park good ol' boy with plenty of homophobia and racism.  He loves drinking, cocaine, and unprotected sex -- the last of which led him to a diagnosis of being HIV-positive, and a predicted lifespan of 30 days.  But Ron outlived his (literal) deadline, learned about alternative medicines to the AZT being pushed as the only cure for AIDS, and even found a way to make a buck: He'd smuggle AIDS drugs in from Mexico (and soon other countries), charge people membership to be in his club (called the Dallas Buyers Club), and give members the drugs it was illegal to sell.
While Ron's motives begin selfish, soon he begins to feel for others.  He partners with Rayon (Jared Leto), a gay transvestite, to get customers from the gay community.  He reads everything he can on AIDS and its treatments, which leads him all over the world to collect new drugs the FDA will not approve.  He becomes an expert on medicine, from knowing what holds promise to using the information from his group to create his own informal drug trials.  He battles the authorities out to shut him down.   He even romances Eve (Jennifer Garner), a doctor who has her own questions about prescribing AZT for every AIDS patient.  And Ron never loses his spirit, foul mouth, or sense of rebellion

Dallas Buyers Club is a thoroughly entertaining movie.  Matthew McConaughey delivers a great bad-boy performance as Ron, letting the character grow without losing his acerbic, coarse, charming-obnoxious roots.  Jared Leto is amazing as Rayon, a part of the community Ron initially hates yet who's willing to work with him for both money and improving the lives of others.  Rayon isn't perfect by any means, but the character will stay with you long after the movie ends.  Garner is decent (but without a lot to do) as a doctor suffering under the system; and the movie may be a bit too simplistic by portraying every medical authority as bad and the "clinical trial" approach as fundamentally flawed.  That said, Dallas Buyer's Club is intelligent, original, and quite touching as a look back at what was a real American health crisis and its surprising champion..

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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