Matthew McConaughey took a while to extricate himself from the morass of celebrity and rom-com stardom to assert himself as a star, but his magnetism gets a thorough workout in this slow-burning melodrama from writer/director Jeff Nichols. Two young boys discover a boat in a tree near the banks of a river in Arkansas. Inside is Mud (McConaughey), an ex-con hoping to refurbish the boat and set sail once he’s reconnected with his sweetheart (Reece Witherspoon). The boys are enlisted to help make that connection is a story described by Nicols as combining Mark Twain with Sam Peckinpah. Great support from Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon and Joe Don Baker, but it’s McConaughey’s film, giving him the kind of careworn hero status that recalls Paul Newman at his best.