November 6, 2013 -- This film is based on the true life story of a fascinating character, Ron Woodroof of Dallas, Texas. When he was told by his doctors in 1986 that he had been infected by HIV and only had 30 days left to live, he didn't put his affairs in order, he turned AIDS into a business opportunity. Seven years later, he was still causing trouble for the doctors, the FDA, the IRS, the police, and anyone else who tried to control him.
Woodruff (played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey) was a rodeo cowboy and an oil field electrician, as well as a gambler, drug user, womanizer, drinker, small-time drug dealer and troublemaker. He was also cantankerous and homophobic as well as being whip smart. His habit of indiscriminate, unprotected sex (shown in the first scene of the film) finally gets him into trouble. He wakes up in a hospital and is told he has contracted HIV.
Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner of “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”) tells Woodruff that he can participate in a new trial study of the drug AZT, but he only has a 50 percent chance of getting the drug. He may also get a placebo as part of a blind study. Woodruff doesn't like the odds. He pays a hospital employee to steal AZT for him.
The AZT (although it was later to prove effective in lower doses combined with other drugs) made him worse. Through his hospital dealer, he gets the name of a doctor in Mexico who runs a clinic for AIDS patients. Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne of “Snow Angels”) who runs the clinic puts Woodruff wise about the extreme toxicity of AZT. He puts Woodruff on a new regimen of drugs and vitamins that works much better than AZT. Some of the drugs are not available in the US.
When he gets better, Woodruff goes into business selling drugs from Mexico to AIDs patients in Dallas. Although he detests homosexuals, he goes into business with a savvy transvestite, Rayon (Jared Leto of “Lord of War”). Woodruff soon picks up on an idea being used in New York and Florida -- a buyer's club for clandestine AIDS drugs. Soon, he and Rayon have a thriving business, and their customers have better survival statistics than patients in the local hospitals do.
Woodruff is jetting around the world getting any kind of anti-AIDS drug he can get his hands on any way he can, legal or otherwise. Soon, the FDA takes notice and tries to shut Woodruff's operations down. Woodruff is a smart, tough customer and he puts up a big fight, in and out of the courts, trying to stay in operation.
Gradually, Woodruff begins to change his harsh view of homosexuals. In one dramatic scene, he physically forces his homophobic friend, Tucker (Steve Zahn of “Joy Ride”) to shake hands with Rayon. It was the first time he had shown his business partner that much respect. It is hard to tell whether Woodruff came to appreciate the fact that some of the homosexuals he was dealing with were treating him much better than were his old heterosexual friends, like Tucker.
The foul-mouthed, self-centered, homophobic, calculating Woodruff is definitely not a nice character, but he does grow on you and he has his good qualities as well. He is a fascinating character, as is Rayon. I wouldn't be surprised if McConaughey and Leto get Academy Award nominations for their performances in this film. It rates a B+.
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