The Paperboy (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/03/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Sweaty, sleazy and gloriously trashy, this is a thoroughly enjoyable slice of Southern-fried neo-noir with stylish direction, a delightfully twisted script and a trio of terrific performances from Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron.

What's it all about?
Directed by Lee Daniels (Precious), The Paperboy (based on a novel by Peter Dexter) is set in 1969 and stars Matthew McConaughey as Ward Jansen, a journalist who returns to his rural Florida hometown in order to investigate the case of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Ward is assisted by his black, British sidekick Yardley (David Oyelowo), his younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) – who delivers the local paper, edited by their father (Scott Glenn) - and Hillary's trampy fiancée Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), who's never actually met Hillary but has fallen in love with him through writing letters to prison inmates.

Things quickly get complicated when Hillary turns out to be less than co-operative with his own appeal and Jack falls hard for Charlotte, despite her rejecting him. Meanwhile, both Ward and Yardley appear to be harbouring secrets of their own.

The Good
McConaughey continues his run of terrific performances with a stand-out turn as Ward, whose movie-star good looks and charm mask a darker, troubled undercurrent. Kidman (also on something of a winning streak with this and Stoker) is equally good as Charlotte, delivering a performance that's a far cry from anything she's done before; the much-touted scene where she pees on Zac Efron (calm down, it's after a jellyfish sting) is worth the price of admission alone, as is her prison room encounter with Cusack's character.

In addition, Cusack is worryingly perfect in the sweaty is-he-isn't-he murderer role, suggesting a possible new career path, should he want one. Similarly, Oyelowo adds an intriguing edge (complete with sardonic British wit) as Yardley and Efron more than holds his own amongst such scene-stealing company, despite having the least showy role.

The Great
Daniels generates a palpably sleazy, sweaty atmosphere (it's the sort of film where you'll come out needing a shower afterwards), heightened by some excellent sound design work (particularly in the use of overlapping dialogue), a cracking soundtrack, stylish editing choices and Roberto Schaefer's sun-drenched cinematography. In fact, the only element of the film that doesn't quite work is the decision to have Macy Gray (as a maid to the Jansens) narrating the story to someone off-camera several years later; the film could have lost that entire conceit with no real impact to the plot.

Worth seeing?
Superbly directed and brilliantly acted, The Paperboy is a gloriously trashy and deliciously dark slice of Southern-fried noir that would make a perfect sweaty double-bill with last year's thematically similar Killer Joe. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

The Paperboy (15)
The Paperboy has been reviewed by 2 users
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Content updated: 20/07/2018 08:02

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