Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson 
Golden Globe Award winner Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Magic Mike) delivers a career-defining performance as Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof in the Dallas Buyers Club who sees his free-wheeling life overturned when he’s diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. Determined to survive, Woodroof decides to take matters in his own hands by tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. After his journey to find a cure leads him to an unlikely ally in Rayon played by Golden Globe Award winner Jared Leto (Lord of War, Alexander), he establishes a hugely successful “buyers’ club” and unites a band of outcasts in a struggle for dignity and acceptance that inspires in ways no one could have imagined.

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
In the summer of 1985, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) had his life turned upside down.  It was then that the electrician and rodeo cowboy had a cough that he couldn’t seem to kick but it is a worksite injury that puts him in the Emergency Room. When he wakes in the hospital he is told that he is HIV positive and that he only has thirty days left to live. Woodroof isn’t gay and is completely insulted by the doctor’s diagnosis and he threatens his doctors and storms out of the hospital. After a little bit of time and some microfiche research at the local library, Woodroof learns that HIV and AIDS are not limited to the homosexual community.  

Additionally he reads that IV drug use and unprotected heterosexual sex are responsible for a growing number of cases. Ron also learns that the drug AZT is the treatment for HIV/AIDS. He returns to the hospital and is greeted by the female doctor he saw on his initial visit, Dr. Saks (Jennifer Garner). After he insults her by assuming that she must be a nurse, he meets with her in her office and learns that he cannot get the drug he requires. Unwilling to die as predicted, Woodroof bribes an orderly to acquire the medication.  

When the hospital cuts off the supply, the orderly directs Woodroof to a clinic in Mexico that can help.  Instead of receiving AZT in Mexico, an unlicensed American doctor warns that AZT will kill him faster than the AIDS virus.  Instead the doctor offers ddC and Peptide T.  This combination has Ron feeling like his old self and he realizes that there is a money making opportunity. Dressed as a priest, Ron smuggles the supplements to the United States and attempts to sell to the homosexual population.  Success finds him when he reunites with Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender drug addict he met in the hospital. Rayon takes Ron to places where his homophobia had kept him away from and the pair begin selling supplements out of the trunk of their car.  

Soon they have enough business to warrant a motel room office. Constantly fighting with the IRS and the Food and Drug Administration, the Dallas Buyer’s Club is born. Instead of selling the supplements, Woodroof sells pricey memberships to his club where a member is allowed all the supplements he/she will need. The Club also gave its members a way to fight back against a system that had abandoned them and left them as outcasts. This is an inspiring story that shows how one man can make a difference. Not only did Woodroof help others live longer, but he himself far exceeded the thirty day prognosis given to him by his doctors as he did not succumb to the disease until 1992, six  years later.

Matthew McConaughey stunningly and completely inhabits the character of Ron Woodroof. His approximately forty pound weight loss makes it easy to forget that you are watching the same man who played the strip club owner in Magic Mike.  While I am a big fan of McConaughey’s numerous romantic comedies, I am immensely proud of the work he has done in this film.  I expected to see a skinny Matthew McConaughey with a mustache but it’s easy to forget that you are looking at anyone but Ron Woodroof.  

Jared Leto’s weight loss was also impressive and played his transgender character with great authenticity.  During a scene where he dresses as a man to visit his father you can’t believe that it’s the same person.   Every actor in this film, whether the part is large or small comes across as absolutely genuine. I also have to compliment the fact that the film felt very 80s without being cheesy.  The clothes, the cars, and even the color scheme of the entire film help transport the viewer right to 1986.  The level of detail in the film helps sell the story.  This is a great film that is very easy to recommend to others.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Dallas Buyers Club is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer and a 2.40:1 widescreen ratio.  The film is without significant issues.  The skin tones are extremely lifelike and noticeably vary with the health of each character.  Everything about this film looks and feels like a snapshot from the 80s and the video quality remains impressive throughout without banding. 
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Dallas Buyer’s Club offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which compliments the remarkable video presentation. Dialogue is intelligible throughout the film. The listener is easily immersed in the roar of the rodeo crowd and inside a packed nightclub. Woodroof’s health concerns are highlighted by various audio tones including a powerful ringing which accompanies his illness.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
When it comes to these extras I like what has been included but I wish there were more.

The Dallas Buyers Club's Blu-ray and DVD contain the following special features:
  • A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club - A four minute behind the scenes look at the film with interviews with McConaughey and the cast.
  • Deleted Scenes - A five minute collection of deleted scenes.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
I have very few complaints about this film, and the Blu-ray combo pack. I often complain about movies lasting too long but this is a nearly two hour movie that should be two hours in length. The audio and visual presentations are extremely well done. I do wish the Blu-ray had more special features, but now that Matthew McConaughey has won a Golden Globe (and possibly more when the Academy Awards arrive), maybe a special edition will be released. I normally shy away from the depressing subjects (unless its serial killers or zombies which I find cheery in an odd way). Usually a film about a man with aids would be the type of drama to leave the viewer drained and sad at the end. In the case of Dallas Buyers Club, it’s certainly a tough subject and it's definitely a drama. But it also has a lot of humor and it's a very sweet story about some very caring people. As McConaughey said in his Golden Globe acceptance speech, “This film was never about dying, it was always about living.” Watching Ron Woodroof turn his thirty days into six years is something I definitely recommend.
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