The mastery of Matthew McConaughey as True Detective’s Rust Cohle


Actor Matthew McConaughey has had one of the most fascinating Hollywood careers of the last 20 years. He kind of winds and turns through all sorts of archetypes that started with his initial big splash as high school cling-on reveler, and endlessly quotable, David Wooderson. He’s been the handsome leading male in his fair share of popular rom-coms such as The Wedding Planner, How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days and Failure To Launch. He’s been the coach with a heart in We Are Marshall and the protagonist in a precursory look at the possible evolution of reality TV in Edtv.

Now as the 44-year-old moves on to the next chapter of his life’s work he’s accomplished something quite amazing. With turns in critically acclaimed films including The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, Mud and most recently Dallas Buyers Club (in which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor, Drama) he’s morphed into being considered one of the very best in the game.

He kind of crept behind the establishment in doing so. If you would have asked me even 10 months ago if McConaughey is one of the best actors of his generation my initial inclination would have been to dismiss the idea, in spite of having thoroughly enjoyed so many of his roles (I’ve probably watched A Time To Kill as many times as any other film I can recall). But then, then something truly remarkable happened, and is still happening, in combination with his mesmerizing portrayal of Ron Woodroof in DBC, and it’s occurring on TV in the form of HBO’s True Detective.

The show, which is receiving nearly universal high praise, has one seemingly opinionated certainty from fans. Matthew McConaughey’s turn as both the younger and older version of Louisiana State CID Rust Cohle is a tour de force, an instantly obvious assault of masterful badassery.


The philosophically nihilistic and quietly brilliant Taxman, as he’s known, is written beautifully by show creator Nic Pizzolatto. Genuinely I can’t recall a more quotable TV character than Cohle in just 3 episodes and I’m including The Wire’s Omar Little and Firefly’s Mal Reynolds under that umbrella. While in many ways the dialogue, especially the older haggard version of Rust is set up with all of these home runs – the part needed just the right man to knock them out and McConaughey does this time after time after time.

His work is stylized, nuanced and wonderfully balanced against his partner, Woody Harrelson as Detective Martin Hart, as they devolve professionally and personally into the darkness of a horrific mystery.

Season 1 is a mere 8 episodes and then True Detective will return later for a 2nd season featuring an entirely new cast and story line. I earnestly believe that once this season wraps up this run will solidify Matthew McConaughey as one of the greats of his time.

Not a bad turn of events for ol’ Wooderson.