Given thirty days to live, Ron Woodroof chose to stick around for over 2,200 more. He fought government bureaucracy. Battled homophobia. Ran international drug shipments. And he did it for the people he once hated the most.
People change when personal circumstances afflict their lives. Anti-gay Senators shift their policies when family members come out. Smokers reevaluate addiction when someone close is taken early. Human nature is like that.
Woodroof (Matthew McConaugey) was not a saint, or rather this film does not see him as one. A firm Texan with revolting methods of homophobia with dependencies of alcohol, drugs, and sex, Woodroof is instantly despised in this backdrop of the early ’80s. As AIDS enters epidemic proportions, Woodroof’s lifestyle pulls him into statistical totals.
Desperate, the now societal outcast electrician is lured into a clinical trial for AVT with the pharmaceutical industry in an uncharacteristic rush for human trials. Given space to produce career defining material, McConaugey’s brash performance shifts this character toward empathy with remarkable caution.
Learning of non-approved solutions to the disease across the Mexican border brings a spark to this once illicit drug dealer. Joined in this fight by transgender person Rayon (Jared Leto), Woodroof opens his motel doors to the Dallas Buyers Club, charging not for the distribution of non-FDA approved (but successful) drugs, but rather an arbitrary membership fee.
Dallas Buyers Club was shot in 25 days. Fifty years ago, a feature shot in such a time frame often offered cheapened sci-fi thrills on cardboard sets. Cinema has progressed. In less than a month, Buyers Club siphoned a cautiously considered peering into the epidemic and a society unwilling to accept (or understand) a disease. Corruption runs in the underbelly as this viciously crude Texan belittles government archetypes.
The film is crowned by its acting superiority, McConaugey leading with support from Leto and a softer Jennifer Garner as a local nurse. Buyers Club is fiercely adult in its conception with unrelenting, uncomfortable depictions of nudity and drug use. In 2014, a film has been made (with a touch of fictionalization) which drops the popularized modern notion of comfortable ’80s living. Buyers Club is a futuristic time capsule.
This is also a character study (and a remarkable one) turning a simple hug into a sign of respectable personal growth. Drama is not picked from disease, rather the effect of the affliction and the show of desperation on those impacted. Buyers Club notion of corporate and government tag teaming is secondary to the will of the people who fought it.
Spritzed with limited color and fitted with deep black levels, Buyers Club comes to Blu-ray by the hand of of Universal’s AVC encode. Saturation is mild even with the orange glow of interiors and with few light sources, the feature becomes dependent upon blacks. Shadow delineation offers superb caution in rendering those darkened areas.
Shot digitally but apparently given a generated grain structure in post, few will notice the artificial touch, least of all this compression job. The notably clean appearance of digital filmmaking is intact, offering an intravenous line direct to the veins of the disc’s fidelity. Focal consistency keeps a firmness to each shot. There are no drops of purely delivered sharpness to note.
Despite the lighting dimness, close-ups produce an exceptional layer of definition. Medium shots are equally clean in producing clarity. There are no signs of aliasing as this stout resolution over performs for such a meagerly budgeted feature. What it lacks in grandiose visual scope it can recover in careful cinematography.
DTS-HD backing will add ambiance as requested, from the surrounding crowd at bull riding competitions to train horns calling from distant tracks. Club scenes envelope a clearly uncomfortable Woodroof as he looks on at potential clients for his business venture.
Sound design becomes critical as Woodroof nears blackout with a high pitch whine hitting each speaker. The effect comes through as appropriately debilitating. Buyers Club is otherwise designed on a budget with minimal push into the rears and even less into stereo channels.
Awful bonuses give no look into Woodroof’s life, leaving a pitiful promo and only a handful of deleted scenes on the disc, less than 10-minutes combined.