Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy is a difficult film to sit through, because not a single character in this steamy and nasty film is worthy of following for more than five minutes at a time. Where The Paperboy gets recognition is in its unique visual presentation that renders the film far from beautiful or pleasing. The Paperboy is an undesirable piece of cinematic trash, but credit must be given to Daniels and his cast for making such a filthy show.
Writer Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns to his Florida home to help investigate a case involving a death row inmate by the name of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) acts as his assistant/driver because he’s got the hots for the crazy lunatic of a lady known as Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman). See, Charlotte has a thing for Hillary and she plans on using Ward’s writing to help free the man so that they can marry and go on living like crazies in some swamp.
Jack doesn’t care much for Hillary and instead he’s got his eyes set on Charlotte. Jack’s been having problems getting over his own mother’s death, so he’s used his sparked interest in Charlotte as a way to cope with his life’s already messed-up batch of problems. Ward fits into this blunt puzzle as the piece that strings the two together and the one that has the most to possibly lose if this case goes south on him.
The Paperboy is a troubling film to dissect, because director Lee Daniels clearly shows talent as a visual artist. He completely and almost too much so captures the hot and sweaty atmosphere of the film. The characters he reveals are disgusting and reprehensible souls that are just tough to watch.
Nicole Kidman’s Charlotte comes off as the sex symbol of the film, but between watching her uncomfortably pee on Efron’s Jack and have one of the most violent and rampant sex scenes with John Cusack’s Hillary; I honestly struggled finding anything good about her character. Charlotte might be a drifting lady having trouble clinging to the right people, but she’s smart enough to know what she’s getting into is bad and yet she continues to do so.
Zac Efron’s turn as Jack is easily the most innocent of the film, but even Jack’s racial anger and pent up sexual desires come bursting out of the film midway through and when that happens he quickly fits in line with the rest of the criminal cast.
Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack ham up their roles the most, with McConaughey giving us another memorable thick accent and a shady back-story, while John Cusack does his best impersonation of an alligator out in the swampy waters. There’s nothing cool or sly about McConaughey in this one. Cusack is just downright sick and disturbing.
The Paperboy never gets off the ground when it needs to and that’s what keeps the film from becoming anything more than a bizarre and trippy story of murder and sexual tension. It feels like it wants to be a slow-burn drama and it does burn as slow as one of those fireworks sparklers, but there’s never a big reveal or shocking climax. Surprises get dropped as the film goes along, but the film doesn’t bother placing importance on anyone or anything, so it all feels like a wash.
The Paperboy comes to Blu-Ray with a 1080p transfer that can only be described as ugly and dirty. Grain is as heavy as can be and most of the skin tones and textures are soft and lacking any sort of natural clarity. I’m sure most of this was Lee Daniels’ intention, but that doesn’t really give this one an excuse from ever showing some finer detail. I’ve seen films with much more grain hold up better than this one. The Paperboy is a murky mess of a transfer.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is much better. The outdoor swamps come to life as the sounds of the water and the creatures that inhabit it come floating by on the back channels as the actors argue and debate on the front two speakers. Dialogue is occasionally hard to hear during the beginning, but most of the film gets by on being understandable. The musical score is an odd pick for the film, but works well on the track.
Here’s a list of bonus content found on the disc:
- Featurette (SD)
- Director Interview (SD)
- Cast and Crew Interview (SD)
- Behind the Scenes (SD)
There’s a very specific crowd that The Paperboy is going to play to. If you like those sleazy investigation films that deal with detestable characters that are all out for sex and death then you’ll probably find this film to be suitable for a Saturday night viewing. The Paperboy tries hard to shock you with its cruel characters and it works at becoming a film that feels gross and would probably smell if it could give off an odor. Watching it had me begging for a cold shower immediately after.
The Blu-Ray doesn’t help the film out at all, with a video transfer that’s possibly a close representation of what Daniels intended, but still comes up with striking errors and inconsistencies. Also, not a single one of the short special features are offered up in high definition.
The Paperboy‘s swampy locations and disturbing sex scenes fit the hard-to-chew story neatly. Director Lee Daniels has made a pulpy tale that just isn’t worth the time. Despite the range of performances delivered the characters aren’t given very much to do and that makes the entire thing feel like a nightmarish dream that never wants to end.