Dallas Buyers Club (15)

Directed by Jean Marc Vallee
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
FACT Liverpool
From 7th February 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Positive Action from The Bottom Up

Not exactly a shrinking violet, trailer trash living Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) blazes onto the screen in a threesome behind the safety bars of a bull riding fiesta in redneck 1986 America. A carefree electrician at an oil-rig complex, and backstreet bookie on the side, he goes to hospital after an incident and comes out an altered man. His life changes dramatically when a blood test proves HIV+ and the disbelieving cowboy is given a month to live.

Heavy bouts of booze and cocaine are his initial safety valve as he weighs up his predicament. The hospital can only offer useless palliative care or a lenghy double blind trial on the drug AZT, at a cost. Without knowing whether he is on the medication or it's sugary placebo the efficacy of this sees him signing himself out.

He reads up on recent medical advances and becomes aware that breakthroughs have been made out with the American drugs cartel; but these have not been sanctioned for use by the American Food and Drugs Agency (FDA).

What to do?

He travels to Mexico after underhand shenanigans with a dodgy orderly ends a brief supply of AZT. There his condition improves under a struck-off doctor, who manages his symptoms with groundbreaking drugs and organic compounds that see him alive six months later.

A supply chain is set up, (with state agencies on it's tail), but they are unable to prevent Ron from setting up his Buyers Club. Via a ruthlessly observed membership of $400 dollars a month, he provides his imports to heterosexual and gay sufferers alike. A lucrative and zero tolerance operation, he is assisted in this enterprise by a next bed ex-hospital transvestite patient, Rayon, brazenly played by Jared Leto.

As Ron deserts, and is snubbed with equal disdain by his once homophobic hangouts and friends, his lawyer keeps him out of trouble, just, while he flies the world for new supply outlets. However, when it becomes a criminal offence to use non FDA approved substances, it all has to come to a head in a State Court case.

This is not an easy or a nice watch. The darkest impulses of the human condition and the deadening hand of uninterested authority and medical ethics are also at the centre of this portrayal of a true story; but truth and compassion can shine through as with Doctor Eve Saks, (Garner).

History moves on, but McConaughey should get some recognition for the way he delivered his part in Director Vallee's take on this seminal story.

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