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Paperboy, The


Stars: Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, Nealla Gordon, Scott Glenn, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, Ned Bellamy

Director: Lee Daniels

The appetite is whetted by the beginning of this Southern States potboiler with a deceptively innocuous title: two journalists, Ward and Yardley (McConaughey, Oyelowo), arrive in Louisiana to investigate the possibly unjust impending execution of a swamp dweller (Cusack) for the murder of the hated local sheriff.

Joining them is trailer-trash blonde Charlotte (Kidman at her most predatory) who has written letters to the condemned man while he's in prison, and plans to marry him if he's freed.

So far, so promising. But the scene where Kidman and Cusack masturbate before each other at the first prison visit by the journalists is symptomatic of the film's downfall, as it sidelines the investigation plot (which barely gets a look in) in favour of the characters' sexual proclivities and activities. It's a film that sets out to shock rather than entertain.

McConaughey's (local) family, with whom the investigators stay, consists of journalist father Glenn, his mistress (Gordon) and kid brother Jake (Efron), who lusts after Charlotte from the outset. Blood, sweat, sex and violence follow, often fuzzily shot with hand-held cameras, under the Louisiana sun. Efron eventually gets to bed Kidman - 'He was getting his mama, his high school sweetheart and an oversexed Barbie doll rolled into one,' explains the narration of the family servant (singer Gray, not very good).

But the film's notoriety is likely to rest on the scene where Kidman urinates on Efron to alleviate the effect of a massive dose of jellyfish stings.

Director Daniels lets it all drift dreamily by, with none of the performances seeming that committed. McConaughey's natural Texas drawl fits in fine, but, while Kidman's accent is pretty good, Efron hardly seems to attempt one at all. Even the suspense of a climactic chase is deadened by the insertion of shots of Efron in a swimming bath in his days as a college swimming champ.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 11 Mar 2013