When Lainey asked me to cover the trailer for Matthew McConaughey’s new movie, Free State of Jones, I was like, “What? Why?” But then I watched it and it made sense because the movie looks ridiculous and amazing. Like I’m not sure which joke to make first—Die Hard the Southern Way or The Patriot II: Confederate Vengeance. McConaughey stars as Newton Knight, a real guy who deserted the Confederate Army during the Civil War and attempted to establish a sovereign nation around Jones County, Mississippi. Actual details on Knight are kind of sketchy—even his attempt to create the “Free State of Jones” are questionable—but he really did desert the Confederate Army, and he really did lead a group of guerilla deserters against the Confederacy, and he really did marry a former slave (as did his children from his first marriage).
So Newton Knight was kind of a badass. Was he a “hide in a coffin and ambush the enemy” kind of badass? I don’t know, but that’s a bananas thing to have in a Civil War movie, so why not? It’s about time the Civil War got the Michael Bay treatment! And lest you think this movie has some pretentions, it’s being released on May 13, in the weeks between two giant comic book movies. Free State of Jones has no pretentions. It knows exactly what it is: Confederate Point Break.
You know what I like about this, besides the coffin ambush? That we’re giving mainstream Hollywood treatment to a bunch of people who fought the Confederacy from within the Confederacy. So much Civil War iconography, especially the Confederate flag, has been co-opted as symbols of Southern pride, like every Southerner is f*cking PROUD of that sh*t. I’m from the South—I’ve never been proud of that sh*t. So yes, let’s put a huge movie star—a loud and proud Texan, no less—in a movie about a Southern guy who spent most of the Civil War f*cking the Confederacy’s sh*t up, and then married a former slave and basically founded an interracial town in the heart of the Deep South even as the Ku Klux Klan was rising to power. Free State of Jones can only get better if there’s a scene of McConaughey wiping his ass with a Confederate flag. Preferably while staging a coffin ambush.