Killer Joe – Review

Killer Joe – Review

Review by FilmFellaLozz – 8/10

Matthew McConaughey, a baddie? Surely not. If you’ve never seen him in anything other than romantic comedies; well, this guy can act. Sticking with that cocky confidence and charm that has served him so well, and lined his pockets for far too long, he’s taken that and given his whole persona a sinister tinge of madness. It just takes a director to see something in someone, to bring it to life and allow an actor to execute the performance of their career. A 77-year old William Friedkin obviously saw the dark side in McConaughey and has focused his efforts at bringing the titular character, Killer Joe, to cinematic life.

Based upon Tracey Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play, the movie follows the very same narrative; Southern white-trash, trailer park family dysfunction at it’s most dysfunctional. Chris (Emile Hirsch) is in debt to the local druglord, kingpin, general bad guy. In order to get himself off the list of people who find themselves buried in shallow graves on the outskirts of town, he sets a plan in motion.

The Plan: to have his mother murdered to claim the insurance money, simple. Enter Joe; a detective who has an altogether morally dubious sideline job as a killer. And he’s not cheap. Soon the whole family is involved; the dumbass ex-husband/dad (Thomas Haden Church), the stepmother (the go-to white-trash actress, Gina Gershon [well, it’s her or Juliette Lewis]), and the innocent little sister, Dottie. Of course, plans are always best laid. And these ones go awry.

I remember when I first saw The Exorcist and it kinda felt like I shouldn’t be watching it. Like it was wrong. Wrong to be laughing at the grotesque before my eyes. Well, this is exactly what friedkin has done again with Killer Joe. It was like watching the taboo, feeling a bit dirty, but enjoying it and actually finding it entertaining throughout, laughing out loud on numerous occasions. But I did want a wash as soon as I could afterwards.  Themes of an ominous and disturbing nature mixed up with humorously dark and twisted overtones are obviously the kinda thing that William Friedkin does best.

The main cast of five excels providing their characters with a natural stupidity and rawness. Hirsch is, once again, proving himself as a very talented actor, up there with the new breed including Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Church’s patchy bearded idiot is hilarious, but he gives so much to a character that could’ve easily been throwaway.  Gina Gershon’s despicable stepmother is just nasty, but she’s made me think; gees, where the hell has this woman been? A very willing and able actress, prepared to go the extra mile for her character (and director).

It’s Juno Temple as Dottie who’s the most memorable of all though. A timid and naïve young woman with a lot more going on behind her eyes, than she lets on. She’s definitely an actress I’ll be watching out for in the future. The character needed a brave talent to take on the role; and she outclasses any actress of her age, around at the moment.

Due to Killer Joe getting an NC-17 rating in the U.S., its release has been extremely limited. Many theatres won’t touch movies branded with this rating with a barge pole; this, of course, being one step away from x-rated. This isn’t down to the theme or the copious amounts of nudity. It’s down to one scene involving a K-Fried-C chicken drumstick. It’s hilariously lurid and shocking and ridiculous, but only adds to what is a strange movie that’s packed with interesting dialogue and realistically frightening characters.

Killer Joe is a delightfully grubby little movie that allows its actors to shine. The more time that’s passed, the more I like it. Not because I’m messed in the head, but because it’s a damn good movie. And I urge all movie lovers to go check it out. If only to forget McConaughey of old; and watch him execute a killer character with horrid menace. It’s nasty and messy; a hideous movie throughout, but always with charm and a wink in it’s eye.


7 Responses to Killer Joe – Review

  1. Filmfella Darren says:

    It’s great to discover that Friedkin still has edge as a director. Whilst his seventies peers like Coppola have lost their way, Friedkin still seems to be making visceral cinema. I’m a big fan of his. I would have The Exorcist and The French Connection in my top 100 films of all time. Did you see his last film Bug, released in 2006? I really liked it – it was an original little thriller that cleverly blurred the lines between reality and fantasy Friedkin got a great performance out of Ashley Judd – and one of my favourite new actors, Michael Shannon, was seriously creepy in that film. In a way, it’s not so bad that films like this get such a limited release, since they get a chance to build up some notoriety.

    • Ray Compton says:

      we are kindred souls, Sir!

    • Filmfella Lozz says:

      Hey Darren. No, I haven’t seen Bug; but I now have it on the DL. Something’s telling me that it’s another Tracey Letts play adaptation. Notoriety is great, sure. But it’s a shame that Killer Joe won’t be seen many. And it should be. I can’t wait to see it again.

  2. Ray Compton says:

    Omigod, i hadn’t heard about this one! we need more terrifically entertaining tasteless trashy movies directed by aged genius directors(no, really, we do!) If Oliver Stone’s”Savages” turns out to miss the mark, i’ll rest easy knowing that in only a few weeks i’ll have “Killer Joe” to look forward to. After all, Friedkin hit the bull’s eye with the universally (except for me) reviled, “Bug”.

    • Filmfella Lozz says:

      Hi Ray. Thanks for visiting and commenting. It’s much appreciated. Unfotunately I haven’t seen Bug; but both you and my compatriot Darren have recommended it now, so it’s definitely on the list. Killer Joe won’t let you down if it’s a dirty bit of pulp you’re after; showcasing a bunch of very talented individuals who have come together to make one of my favourite movies so far this year. Other than Bug, is there anything else that I should look out for? And what’s got your thumbs up this year so far then?

  3. steven says:

    sooooo wanna see this movie, cant wait, didn’t realise it was a kinda black comedy I’m guessing you would put it in that category? if you laughed, guessing i will laugh out loud lots. sweet review dude!

  4. Filmfella Darren says:

    Hey Lozz, I have just watched Killer Joe, and the first thing I did after watching it was read your review again. I’m in agreement with you – it is a very interesting film. Yes you are right – it puts the grime in crime. It was like a satire of just how morally bankrupt trailer trash folk are, matched with a really edgy, and provocative plot. The stupid-folk-involving themselves-in-crime-their-ill-equipped-to-deal-with plot reminded me a lot of early Coen brothers films – particularly Blood Simple. If you watched the two films back-back you would see a catalogue of similarities. The plot is very similar for one and Mathew McConaughey’s sleazy Stetson wearing killer detective is so similar to M Emmit Walsh’s character in Blood Simple that he absolutely must be inspired by him. Have you seen Blood Simple? If you haven’t you will enjoy it, as it uncovers the same dark, twisted and sinister territory as Friedkin uncovers here. Friedkin was always such an uncompromising director and I’m delighted to see he hasn’t mellowed with age. That infamous chicken drumstick scene was a clever way of putting an image in audience minds that is still a major taboo in motion pictures. The performances were excellent and it was refreshing to see McConaughey subvert his considerable charm. I loved the way his composed, controlled manor contrasts the criminal ineptitude around him. He was toying with them all really I think, basking in just how superior he is to them. His love for Dottie seemed genuine though and gave him some redemption. The finale was epic – I loved how Friedkin left the last moment open ended. If you fancy another twisted crime drama set in the south watch The Killer Inside me. If certain scenes in Killer Joe made you uncomfortable, just wait until you see The Killer Inside Me. It’s another film similar to Killer Joe

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