Comedy Movies, by Mike Richardson, 22 August 2012

Director: William Friedkin

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple

Country: USA

Runtime: 103 min

Release Date:

Language: English

Killer Joe is a tar black, Southern fried, trailer trash, neo-noir that works as an antidote to pretty much every “safe” thriller out there. It’s directed by William (The Exorcist) Friedkin, based on a Tracy Letts stage play and stars Mathew McConaughey as the titular Joe. The bar is set pretty high with a double whammy of Friedkin and Letts, but it’s McConaughey who takes things to another level with a shiversome portrayal of a quietly psycho hitman. In fact McConaughey’s Killer Joe goes a long to apologise for / erase the memory of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Fools Gold (but not far enough to cover How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Sahara). Killer Joe, a cop “with a little business of the side” is a superb invention that reminded this reviewer of Robert Mitchum’s legendary performance in Night of the Hunter. Joe is insanely cold and he is utterly reptilian in his attitude to killing, but believes that how his victim is going to be disposed of is “not appropriate dinner conversation”. In an age of torture porn movies (the tiresome Saw and Hostel series) Killer Joe is a film that shocks without falling back on guts and gore or overly elaborate Mouse Trap (the game) machinery. Amazing as this may sound, Killer Joe gives you shocks through narrative and spectacle (and chicken drumsticks) something remarkably rare in film nowadays.

Killer Joe

Killer Joe

Killer Joe is adapted from her stage play of the same name by Tracy Letts, a tale of one southern American trashy family’s attempt dispose of their mother for her $50,000 life insurance policy. This dysfunctional redneck family unit, is headed by Ansel (the ever excellent Thomas Haden Church), a welder of low ambition and lower IQ, his dubiously loyal (aka borderline slutty) girlfriend Sharla (the criminally AWOL from movie screens Gina Gershon), his dull tool in dull toolbox son (played by Emile Hirsch) and Chris’ sister Dottie (Juno Temple) seemingly mommy dearest’s sole beneficiary. The catalyst to the plan is Chris’ awry drug business, “I need $6,000 or dome guys are gonna kill me!” Simple is as simple does, and rather than getting out of town quick (as his idiot father suggests) Chris decides to murder his way out of debt, but an unwillingness to do the deed himself, opens the door for Killer Joe.

However the $10,000 cash advance that Joe require (“no exceptions”) is beyond the family’s means and looks to be a deal breaker until Joe notices Dottie (played as a pitch perfect mix of innocence and instability by rising star (bound to go super nova) Temple), who’s offered as a retainer.

To say that these poorly laid plans go askew would be an understatement and would spoil the fun to be had spending 90 minutes with Joe and the murderous brood. Suffice to say things take a turn for the unpleasant which saw Killer Joe Rated NC-17 (in the States) for graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and is all the better for it. While not of the same depth of Friedkin’s The Exorcist or the French Connection, Killer Joe nevertheless serves as proof that there is still some balls behind a camera in Hollywood, even if you have to look to a 76 year old to find them.

Killer Joe Trailer

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