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Article by Teddy Durgin

Mud Cleans Up Very Well

I recently got XM satellite radio for the first time, and I have to say, I'm lovin' it! I had become spectacularly bored with regular radio, folks. Even worse, I had started to forget how much of a music lover I am. Just as I love all types of movie, my music tastes are just as varied. Depending on my mood, I could scream-sing to Metallica, croon to classic Sinatra or crank up some old-school L.L. Cool J. But my favorite channel so far is Willie's Roadhouse, a station programmed by Willie Nelson that mostly features classic country tunes that tell a story. And those stories often revolve around down-and-out cowpokes who've done some no-account things on account of some woman. I'm talking songs like "El Paso" in which Marty Robbins sings about shooting a man who'd been flirting with his dream girl, then not being able to stay away from the cantina where it all went down. Or, there's Johnny Cash's "Cocaine Blues," in which Cash laments about getting hopped up on nose candy, shooting his cheating woman then getting arrested in Mexico and hauled back before a judge. Or, there's Kenny Rogers' "Coward of the County," the story of Tommy who's torn between keeping a promise to his jailed daddy to walk away from trouble or going after a group of local toughs who have assaulted his girlfriend. The list goes on. The new movie "Mud" is like an old Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers song brought to life. It features Matthew McConaughey as Mud, a drifter who's hiding out on a small island on the Mississippi River after he killed a man for impregnating, then beating up his former girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). One day, two teenage boys named Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) motor-boat over to the island looking for adventure. They find Mud and are instantly taken with him. Ellis, in particular, forms a bond with the man. He senses a kindred spirit in Mud, as both are romantics willing to fight for the women they love. Ellis has a crush on a local older girl in town. So, his mind is spinning with the newfangled notions of love, loyalty, trust and fate. He vows to help reunite Mud with Juniper and see them to safety - a task that becomes tricky when bounty hunters show up in town looking to kill Mud. It's all very Johnny Cash, very Waylon Jennings. Juniper is like a Conway Twitty lyric incarnate when Ellis finally spots her in town. She spends her days as all women do in such tales, gravitating between the local motel, the nearby Piggly Wiggly and the honky-tonk bar up on Highway 10. Will she wait for Mud? Will she stray again? Or will the bounty hunters hired by the dead man's rich daddy rough her up just to draw Mud out? The film is layered not like a Hollywood thriller, but indeed like a classic ballad. It's as much about character and motivation as it is about "who's gonna git shot." It's also exceptionally well cast, especially the two young leads who take their modern-day Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn parts and turn them into heroic, wonderfully idiosyncratic personalities. And McConaughey just owns the part of Mud. It's a great performance! "Mud" is a wise, entertaining little picture that says a lot about life. What are its main lessons? That there ain't no good in an evil-hearted woman? That sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man? That there's a bar in my car and it's drivin' me to drink? Hee hee. The biggest lesson I learned is that it's worth payin' good beer money to see a terrific, little film nestled between theaters showing them bullies "Iron Man 3" and "Star Trek Into Darkness."

"Mud" is rated PG-13 for violence, language and smoking.


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