Set in 1960s Florida, journalist Ward Jansen returns home to investigate the case against Hillary Van Wetter, a violent man from the swamps, who he believes has been wrongly accused of murdering the local sheriff. Aided by his younger brother Jack, who has been expelled from school for vandalism, his ambitious black British colleague and Van Wetter’s fiancé Charlotte – a woman Van Wetter has never met but receives correspondence from in prison. Charlotte is determined to have Van Wetter released so they can marry.
Based on the book of the same name by Pete Dexter, the story is narrated by the Jansen brother’s maid Anita (played by singer Macy Gray). She sees that young Jack is in love with older, and much worldlier, Charlotte, who is determined to be with her jailhouse fiancé. Brilliant performances from Matthew McConaughey as Ward and Zac Efron as his younger brother Jack. Nicole Kidman gives a surprisingly believeable performance as the death row groupie Charlotte and John Cusack’s portrayal of the creepy Van Wetter is exceptional. The characters have some deep flaws and are hiding some surprising secrets. If you can put aside some of the seedier scenes in the movie, it is an enjoyably twisted story.