DVD Release Date: February 4, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: November 1, 2013 limited; expands through November
Rating: R (for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity, and drug use)
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 117 min
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Kevin Rankin, Griffin Dunne

There has been no greater career transformation in Hollywood recently than that by Matthew McConaughey (Mud). Long the laid-back beefcake of many a disposable rom-com, McConaughey's move to low-budget indies has been dramatic – even garnering its own nickname within the industry: The McConnaissance.

That stark career shift has appropriately piqued in his turn as Ron Woodruff in the fact-based AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club, because it's as transformative a performance as we've seen in quite some time. On the surface you see it instantly: McConaughey let the 180-pound weight of his 6-foot frame plummet to around 120. But the transformation is not just physical, it's psychological. The depths he goes to internally match what we see externally. McConaughey is tapping his own personal well as deep as it goes, accessing every last shred of raw, desperate, and pure humanity that exists within him.

The movie does as well – and its own raw depictions make Dallas Buyers Club a very hard-R. Set in mid-1980s Dallas on the early curve of the AIDS epidemic, it exhibits Woodruff as a hard-living, hard-partying, sexually promiscuous rodeo bull rider. We see it all in detail – from bull pen quickies to coke-snorting three-ways (and more) – as Woodruff and his friends live a carnal, drug-fueled, trailer trash lifestyle (profanities are also constant throughout). This film is explicit, and intentionally repellent.

The only careless conduct Woodruff avoids is unprotected sex with multiple homosexual partners – which, at the time, was erroneously perceived as the sole way of contracting the HIV virus. So when he's diagnosed – and given thirty days to live – Woodruff's coarse homophobia erupts in violent denial. He's not only been given a death sentence but assumed to be a queer as well, a fact that causes all of his redneck friends to mock and disown him.

After research educates Woodruff on how his lifestyle led to HIV, he enters early pharmaceutical trials where AZT, DDC, and Peptide T were in their initial rounds of test study. Cell-killing AZT doses are administered to excessive, negative effect (but hospitals were handsomely reimbursed), so Woodruff becomes determined to find other options. That leads him to Mexico and non-FDA approved trial drugs not being pushed by the Big Pharma/FDA corrupt cronyism. These pills were saving lives, and so Woodruff orchestrates an international – and altruistic – drug ring to traffic them.

With a lawyer's help, Woodruff sets up the Dallas Buyers Club in such an ingenious way that he can distribute openly while avoiding prosecution. It's one gigantic hustle that has him going to the ends of the earth for supply while working through legal loopholes to meet demand. Joining him are unlikely allies: Rayon (Jared Leto, Alexander), who is not simply gay but transgender, and Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner, The Odd Life of Timothy Green) who is skeptical of the skewed testing by the money-driven corporate/government alliance.