Feb 24, 2014 Film & TV
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Anyone suspicious of Big Pharma and regulatory authorities will love this true story of a hell-raising, womanising Texan who didn’t believe Aids sufferers were getting a fair deal in the mid-80s and set up a smuggling operation, bringing in drugs from Mexico and Japan.
The ironic twist is that — like his swaggering rodeo friends — electrician Ron Woodroof was contemptuous of gays until he was diagnosed as HIV positive himself. Given 30 days to live, he refused to accept a doctor’s decision that he couldn’t take the powerful anti-viral drug AZT and started doing his own research.
Soon he was driving a Lincoln Continental laden with hundreds of thousands of pills across the border from Mexico, sometimes disguised as a priest. He made that trip more than 300 times, and even smuggled medicine from Tokyo in a briefcase that leaked dry ice smoke — all to supply his Dallas Buyers Club, where those who were HIV positive could buy the drugs they needed.
By the time Woodroof died of an Aids-related illness in 1992, aged 42, he had survived nearly seven years longer than doctors had predicted and had taken on the FDA and other powerful government bodies.
Matthew McConaughey tackles the lead role with gusto, seguing from homophobic rake to rake-thin Aids crusader seamlessly (he lost 20kg in a couple of months on a regime of diet cola, egg whites and chicken). The catalyst for his road to Damascus experience is transgender Aids patient Rayon (Jared Leto), who introduces him to the gay community.
Both McConaughey and Leto’s performances are first class and, although the pacing sags in the middle, the film is always inspiring and never less than watchable. In its best sequences — like the opening bucking-bull scene — it’s plainly exhilarating.