Good, Bad & Ugly Review: Mud

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 98% (Critics) / 88% (Audience)
Directed By: Jeff Nichols
Written By: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson and Reese Witherspoon
Studio: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

Synopsis:Two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love. (Source)

The Good:
Matthew McConaughey has been on a role with the movie choices he has made since THE LINCOLN LAWYER and his performance as the titular character in MUD may just be the best and most understated performance he has given since refocusing on his craft and saying goodbye to bad rom-coms. He has an easy, smooth charm about him with an edge that is bubbling underneath and even though you want to doubt the veracity of pretty much anything the guy says, McConaughey is so smooth and genuine that you find yourself hoping he is not as big a liar as so many characters proclaim him to be.
As great as McConaughey is though, the heart of this movie is Ellis played to perfection by Tye Sheridan. Sheridan wows in this role and hold his own or dominates every scene he is in even those featuring veteran actors like Sam Shepard.
Credit also should be given to writer/director Jeff Nichols. He directs the movie in a slow and languid manner that completely jibes with the Mississippi Delta setting of the film. And his script worked so well for me because it took an honest look at love in different stages and showed how painful, arbitrary and disappointing that emotion can be.
And everyone should have a best friend as cool as a kid named Neckbone (played by Jacob Lofland, a great little scene stealer).

The Bad:
I would have really liked to have seen more of Joe Don Baker and his overarching desire for revenge against Mud. The lengths he was ready to go to in order to avenge his son’s death while still being a seemingly devout man intrigued me and I would have liked to have seen more of the character.
It also would have been nice to see more of Michael Shannon. The guy seems to play nothing but total assholes and the one time he gets a roles as a nice guy and he is barely shown.

The Ugly:
Reese Witherspoon never seemed convincing as the fickle object of Mud’s affection. I don’t know why she never seemed comfortable in the role (it’s not like she is incapable of playing total trash she did it so well in FREEWAY) but she was never a welcome presence on screen in this movie.

Final Verdict: A beautiful and engaging movie that evokes memories of STAND BY ME and HUCKLEBERRY FINN but also tosses in a blood vendetta for good measure. Full of mostly great performances from a mostly amazing cast, MUD is a must see film for anyone who calls themselves a movie fan.

Rating: A-

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