Directed and co-written by Lee Daniels and based on Peter Dexter‘s 1995 best-selling novel of the same name, The Paperboy is set in 1960’s Florida and follows a reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) who return home to investigate a career-making story involving a death row inmate (John Cusack). With the help of his younger brother (Zac Efron) and a death-row groupie (Nicole Kidman), the pair try to prove the violent swamp-dweller was framed for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff.
I have to start off by saying that there was so much in this film that I didn’t want to see from any of these actors, that I’m struggling to think of how to even begin reviewing this one…
Let’s start by saying that if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that The Paperboy is trashy. Unfortunately, because of how badly it is handled it isn’t trashy in a good way. With a very thin plot line, albeit one that appears competent enough to make a sexually charged film noir at first glance, there is an obvious lack of depth that means your focus isn’t allowed to go any further than the thin, poor quality top layer of what this film actually is. To make it worse, the editing is so poorly done that it’s enough to make you feel dizzy and, whilst I really liked the use of colour, the cinematography is horrendously off-putting. As these qualities come together, The Paperboy, from the outskirts alone, looks less than mediocre.
The promising cast was the biggest waste, though, not giving Zac Efron the transitional role I thought it would, making Matthew McConaughey somehow really dull, and giving John Cusack a character with so little threat, despite his creepy qualities, that I was more scared of him in Being John Malkovich than I was of him as a murdering rapist. None of these characters had any motivation for what they were pursuing and, for that reason, it was impossible to engage with any of them. The only actor worth mentioning for their performance is Nicole Kidman, but even then I felt embarrassed for her for the best part of the film. Still, it takes a lot of nerve to agree to a script like that!
The real problem with The Paperboy is that everything seems to lack any real effort. The cast try their best with what they’re given, but there was obviously no push from those behind the camera. For a premise with such huge potential, it all falls to an amateur level. I don’t even know what genre to put this under? It was so much of everything that it wasn’t really anything, know what I mean?