We’ve enjoyed him as an aging stoner in "Dazed and Confused," the object of every woman’s affection in countless romcoms and as a hard-nosed lawyer, which he’s done five times to date. But we love us some Matthew McConaughey when this Southern gentleman jumps off the tracks and veers into crazy town.
In his latest film, "Killer Joe," McConaughey plays the title character, a Dallas police detective moonlighting as a contract killer. Playing quiet and controlled for most of the film, he flips a switch when he realizes that his client, Chris (played by Emile Hirsch), cannot pay for the services rendered. Joe turns into a psychopath who torments Chris and his family during an unforgettable family dinner in one of the many sequences that got the film tagged with an NC-17 rating.
Legendary director William Friedkin saw the deep-seeded craziness inside the golden boy that made him perfect for the role of Joe. "He understood the geography in a way that contributes to the DNA of the character," Friedkin told The New York Times. It’s just the latest in a handful of times over McConaughey’s 20-year career that those dreamy eyes turn cold and the smooth twangy accent gets into a twisted froth.
Who could forget him as Vilmer Slaughter in the 1994 low-budget horror "sequel" "The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (a.k.a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation"). In the film, he plays a psycho with a cybernetic leg who torments the hell out of Renée Zellweger, who plays a girl on prom night. Neither soon-to-be superstars had gotten their break yet, which makes it even more fun to watch now as McConaughey goes for broke with the role — screaming, slashing, sweating (and you thought Leatherface was the disturbed one).
Two years later, after becoming more established with the release of the courtroom drama "A Time to Kill," the producers of the shoot 'em up crime drama "Scorpion Spring" decided it was the right time to unleash onto the world this straight-to-DVD gem in which McConaughey has a cameo as the feared drug lord El Rojo. Once again McConaughey pulls out all the crazy stops, especially in the film’s bloody finale.
The next five years McConaughey built up his heartthrob status with films like "EdTv," "U-571" and "The Wedding Planner," but in 2001 he went back to the dark side with the under-appreciated horror film "Frailty." As Fenton Meiks, he goes to the FBI to tell them that he knows who’s responsible for a string of killings in the area. Through flashbacks we learn that his father (Bill Paxton, who also directed the film) told him and his brother that he could see demons and has been ordered to kill them. Although the film is filled with gore and serial killing, McConaughey plays it pretty calm.
Then came McConaughey’s biggest challenge: trying to out-crazy Christian Bale. In "Reign of Fire," he plays Van Zan, a shaved head, tattooed, cigar-chomping militant who, in a world brought to its knees by dragons, is dedicated to hunting down the beasts. In the finale, he battles the male dragon he and his team have been hunting with a giant axe and, well, let’s just say things don’t turn out so good for them. The Variety review for the film says it best: “[McConaughey] hasn't had such unabashed fun chewing on scenery and other actors since 'The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.'"
So, yes, you may like your McConaughey bronzed and shirtless flashing that big grin, but once in a while it’s good to get out the crazy. We can only praise his dedication.
Here’s looking forward to more “Crazy McConaughey."