Eldest son Ward Jansen is a star reporter for a Miami newspaper and has returned home with close friend Yardley to investigate a racial murder case. Younger brother Jack Jansen has returned home after a failed stint at university as a star swimmer. To help give his life some direction, Ward gives Jack a job on their investigation as their driver. But into the mix comes the fiancée of the imprisoned convict who stirs up confusing feelings of love and lust for the young Jack. Meanwhile, Ward and Yardley's investigation stirs up deep-rooted issues of race and acceptance which could cause serious consequences for everyone involved. Written by
Lee Daniels' adaptation of the Peter Dexter novel taking a look at some swamp trash and a mystery surrounding them. Reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns to his hometown to try and solve the mystery behind a sheriff who was killed. Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) is on death row for the crime but the reporter believes he is innocent and drags his younger brother (Zac Efron) and a trashy woman (Nicole Kidman) into things. THE PAPERBOY is a pretty unpleasant look at a bunch of characters you can't help but hate and it's funny to see McConaughey really changing his "image" here as well as in the year's earlier KILLER JOE. I think the best thing about the picture are the performances as well as the authentic feel that director Daniels brings to the picture. The biggest problem is the screenplay and a story that I just felt wasn't all that captivating. The entire mystery surrounding what really happened to the sheriff seems to take a backseat and it really just seems to come and go at times. I'm really not sure why it was thrown in the background as much and especially with the twists that come towards the end. With the twists you'd think that the filmmakers were wanting the story itself to be important but it just never really takes off. It also seems that the director wants to shock the viewer with some rather graphic violence and sexual situations, which have the stars all doing some pretty wild things. It really does seem as if the film is just building up to each of these scenes and it's fair to say that they're quite memorable. The performances from the entire cast are terrific with both McConaughey and Kidman doing wonders with their swamp trash characters. I thought both of them were incredibly believable and hats off to them for going as far out as they did. I was also impressed with Efron and thought he handled the character's development quite well. Cusack was terrific playing the creepy bad guy and we also got strong support from David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn and Macy Gray. The cinematography is also good as is the music score and the atmosphere. THE PAPERBOY, as is, is a good showcase for its stars but you can't help but feel it's a missed opportunity as a stronger story would have made it even better.
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