Rogue 10: Ten Matthew McConaughey Performances You Can't McConaughate

Thursday, 20 February 2014 17:16 Written by  iamrogue
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Rogue 10: Ten Matthew McConaughey Performances You Can't McConaughate

Matthew McConaughey is riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels.

Lately the actor has been on an unparalleled roll, doing career-best work in seemingly every new performance.  Just a few short years ago, McConaughey was synonymous with generic romantic comedies in which he played "The Matthew McConaughey Type" rather than real characters.

Now here we are, at a time when the dude everybody dismissed half a decade ago reveals new layers and depths on the regular.  Thanks to his devastating and dramatically physical work as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey is heavily favored to take home a Best Actor statuette at the 86th Academy Awards.

Even as rakes in accolades and awards for Dallas Buyers Club, he's turning in a riveting performance week-by-week on HBO's elegant and desolate True Detective, running with the opportunities for longer, more nuanced acting that cable television now provides.  And that's on the heels not only of his Oscar-nominated role, but a vital appearance in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and acclaimed work in Magic Mike and Killer Joe, just to name a few.

Next year, he ups his blockbuster game with Christopher Nolan's huge, ambitious, and mysterious Interstellar.

So here, at or near the pinnacle of McConaughey's success, well beyond the turning of the tide, we've rustled up our latest Rogue 10 compiling ten outstanding Matthew McConaughey performances that are above reproach, that stand the test of time, that are worth remembered, and that you just can't McConaughate.

Without any further ado, here are ten bits of chiseled acting greatness:

Jake Tyler Brigance, A Time to Kill (1996)


Before his romantic comedy malaise or his fist-swinging rise back to acclaim, this was the first time McConaughey inspired a whole lot of hype about his actual acting.  Leading man charisma is there from the start in this John Grisham adaptation, but only as the courtroom drama rolls along are his earnestness and gravity revealed.  Plus, he manages to hold the screen when the whole movie should be subsumed by Samuel L. Jackson unleashing all manner of righteous fury.

Rick Peck, Tropic Thunder (2008)

Between the beauty of Kirk Lazarus and the toneless sweaty screaming of Les Grossman, a lot of people seemed not to notice that Rick Peck is a comedic creation nearly on the level of the former and far smarter than the latter.  Oddly compelling bits of backstory poke through, but mostly Peck's a perfect douche, a multitasking agent whose perspective is so shot that he truly believes his client's contractually guaranteed TiVo is the most important thing in the world.

Palmer Joss, Contact (1997)

As the spiritual counterpoint to Jodie Foster's straightforward scientist Ellie, Palmer could've been obnoxiously wishy washy or even a bit antagonistic, but instead McConaughey invests him with humanity, intelligence, and compassion that make him a match for Foster.

Rad Thibodeaux, King of the Hill (1999)


Even before he was arrested whilst naked and smacking on some bongo drums, the native Texan always seemed like he'd be right at home in Arlen, Texas.

Mud, Mud (2013)


Okay, Mud is part of the actor's current hot streak, but we've included it here partially because we don't want this gem to end up as a footnote between Magic Mike and Dallas Buyers Club.  This movie is basically a simple, southern-fried boy and his dog story.  Or E.T. but without the alien.  Standing in for a dog or an alien is McConaughey as Mud, an unreliable and possibly dangerous fugitive who is both the best and worst secret buddy a youngster could have.

Ed Pekurny, Edtv (1999)


Ron Howard's comedy riffing on early reality TV is a movie of modest pleasures.  And Ed, a video store clerk who is dumbfounded when he becomes a twenty-four hour TV sensation, is a modest figure.  Ed's insecure enough to flex like crazy while brushing his teeth in front of the cameras, but he's also confident enough to do a silly chicken dance with the whole world watching.  For the most part, he's an everyman whose relaxed simplicity should've rubbed off on the movie around him.  Bonus: Ed's other brother Ray is played by McConaughey's future True Detective costar Woody Harrelson.

Danny Buck, Bernie (2012)

In one of the two Richard Linklater joints on this list, our man McConaughey creates what is in many ways the proto-McConaughey character: vain, casually manipulative, cool but silly, and a little likable in spite of himself.  Or at least he starts off that way, but one of the many great things about Bernie is how it tweaks our expectations and sympathies throughout a true story that's a lot more cut-and-dried on paper than it is on film. 

Denton Van Zan, Reign of Fire (2002)


This dude isn't just a tatted-up, cigar-chomping badass who rides into town astride an armored tank.  He is that, but this grizzled son of a bitch isn't a solder, he's a dragonslayer.  In a postapocalyptic wasteland of scorched skies ruled by massive fire-breathing beasts, Denton Van Zan slays dragons with artillery and a battleaxe.  Not only does McConaughey prove manlier than a pre-Batman Christian Bale and a pre-300 Gerard Butler, he indulges in an uncharacteristic bit of mega-acting, growling every line like a rusty old furnace.

Tip Tucker, Larger Than Life (1996)


You'd never expect anybody but Bill Murray or an elephant to be the funniest thing in a movie about Bill Murray on a cross-country road trip with an elephant, but McConaughey is, without a doubt, the funniest thing in Larger Than Life.  As trucker Tip Tucker, his drawl isn't a relaxed "Alright, alright, alright."  Tucker is a paranoid speed freak with extreme paranoia and a predilection towards cartoonish overreaction.  So cartoonish that McConaughey frequently looks like he's playing a live action Yosemite Sam.

Wooderson, Dazed and Confused (1993)

Just as he was even with just a quick cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street, McConaughey is this movie's pulse, its animating spirit.  His first work with Linklater is a big ensemble of disparate stories, but this happy, stoned-stupid scumbag pulls them all together.  Not in a narrative sense, but an attitude: Wooderson is the nexus of all these characters' separate enthusiasms and dilemmas.  Well out of high school, Wooderson is still beefing up his muscle car and scamming on high school girls.  He's at once pathetic and triumphant.  He just keeps L-I-V-I-N-G, man.


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