Still, such moments (and the film as a whole, really) invite inevitable comparisons to another trashy film noir from the summer, “Killer Joe,” which found respected, well-known actors (including McConaughey again, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon and Emile Hirsch) slumming as desperate lowlifes. William Friedkin's film was also a guilty pleasure but it had the tension and narrative drive to create the sensation that it was going somewhere. “The Paperboy” feels more like a hazy slog through the swamp, where gators and goony yokels lie in wait to pounce on their prey.
Or they could just have another beer.
Still, the performances keep you hooked. Cusack is frightening — and frighteningly good — playing against type as a truly disturbed and unpredictable individual. McConaughey can do charming and ambitious in his sleep. Kidman finds more smarts and fragility within her character than you might expect; the bravado and drive on display here are reminiscent of her chilling work as a delusional weather girl in “To Die For.” And Efron? Well, he looks great. He's in the tough spot of functioning as the straight man at the center of all these larger-than-life personalities. You've got to admire the eclectic film choices he's making as he grows up.
Is there a point to all this? Aside from tawdry, voyeuristic thrills, probably not. And the film knows it, and that's fine.
— Christy Lemire, The Associated Press
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray and John Cusack. (Strong sexual content, violence and language)