It’s a rare drama that shows HIV-positive characters as heroes rather than victims and martyrs.
But DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (15: Entertainment One) takes a refreshingly frank and unsentimental view of the 1980s Aids crisis.
Based on a true story, Matthew McConaughey gives an Oscar-winning performance as RonWoodroff, a fast-living Texas redneck who becomes infected after a fling with a junkie.
Given 30 days to live, Woodroff is at first in denial, but he quickly realises that his hospital treatment is not working and that many treatments for his condition are not available in the US.
With the help of a transexual Aids patient (Jared Leto, another Oscar winner),he sets up a scheme to smuggle the drugs into the country and distribute them to those who need them.
Things are kept low-key and subtle, allowing Woodroff to blossom quite plausibly from a racist homophobe into a civil-rights crusader.
The sight of a gaunt McConaughey gives the film immediate impact, but by the end it’s the willingness of the American government to help giant pharmaceutical companies in the fixing of drugs prices that proves more shocking.
> Chris Pine steps into the shoes previously worn by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck in JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (12: Parmount), a reboot for novelist Tom Clancy’s CIA agent.
Ryan, a former soldier injured in the line of duty, takes up a new career as a financial analyst for the agency.
His deskbound job changes to a dangerous undercover assignment when he discovers a plot to destroy the US economy.
Ryan’s boss (Kevin Costner) sends him to Moscow and his investigations snowball into a series of hair-raising skirmishes that put millions of lives at risk.
Director Kenneth Branagh, who also co-stars as a Russian oligarch, pitches his film directly at audiences who enjoy the high-octane exploits of Bond and Bourne.
The thrills and spills are strictly by the book, but Pine is good value as the government pen-pusher who initially finds himself out of his depth when he is thrust into the front lines of espionage.
> Boxing movie legends Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro give knowing winks towards their characters from Rocky and Raging Bull in GRUDGE MATCH (12: Warner).
They square up to each other as a pair of over-the-hill ex-prizefighters coaxed out of retirement 30 years after a major feud and when they last faced eachother in the ring.
As both men struggle to prepare physically for the rematch, they also find themselves having to deal with other unfinished business in their lives.
But when the bout becomes an internet sensation, it goes from being a local event to a nationwide media circus.
The genre’s typical supporting players include a cantankerous old trainer (a wise-cracking Alan Arkin), a long-lost son (Jon Bernthal) and the woman who fell for both contenders when they were in their prime (Kim Basinger).
It’s a lightweight yarn and sadly the surprise-free script rarely rises above an extended comedy sketch parodying the past glories of Stallone and De Niro.