Today: February 21, 2024

Killer Joe

Already slapped with a restrictive NC-17 certificate

Already slapped with a restrictive NC-17 certificate by
the American ratings board and having just triumphantly opened the 2012
Edinburgh International Film Festival,
Friedkin’s second collaboration with playwright
Tracey Letts (after 2006’s bonkers Bug which gave the world Michael
Shannon) is a Southern Fried American Gothic that’ll change the way you
look at KFC.
In fact, once you see
the use Matthew McConaughey’s Joe
finds for Gina Gershon and one of
the Colonel’s drumsticks, you’ll either never eat chicken again or rush out and
buy a family bucket.

Small-time drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) owes a lot of money to some very bad people. So with his father Ansel’s (Thomas Haden Church) help and stepmom
Sharla’s (Gershon) connivance, Chris
hatches a plot to get himself out of the hole. His divorced mother has a $50,000 life insurance policy and
the sole beneficiary is his beloved, naive sister, the aptly-named Dottie (Juno Temple). But who’s going to kill Mom?

Enter Killer Joe (McConaughey),
a Dallas policeman who moonlights as a hitman. For $25,000 he’ll take care of everything. The only problem is Joe wants his money
upfront and until the insurance pays out, Chris doesn’t have a penny. So Joe suggests a compromise; until
he’s paid, he’ll take Dottie as collateral, a “retainer” to use as he sees
fit. To Chris’ dismay, the
virginal Dottie isn’t exactly upset at the idea…

A sick, twisted, darkly funny piece of hick-sploitation
cinema, Killer Joe proves that, at
76, William Friedkin is still one of America’s most exciting directors. At a time when his contemporaries are
busy counting their money and tending their vineyards (yes Lucas and Coppola,
we mean you), the man who gave us The
French Connection
and The Exorcist
is back and at the top of his game, giving us a savage, cynical, relentless
little chamber piece so seedy and sweaty you may want to shower after seeing
it. Killer Joe doesn’t just wallow
in sleaze, corruption and amorality; it backstrokes in it, completely immersing
you. At its dark, septic heart the
film is a po’ white-trash fairytale; the put-upon Dottie dreams of escape, of a
Prince Charming. He may be a
stone-cold psychopath but the softly spoken, curiously gentlemanly Joe may
actually be the nicest man she’s ever met. As Prince Charming’s go, he’s pretty charming. But he also happens to be the Big Bad

As the predatory Joe, McConaughey has never been better,
his magnetic, seductive, reptilian performance banishing the decade of bad
chick flicks he’s made with the likes of Kate
and Shergar Jessica Parker,
reminding you just how good he used to be in movies like Lone Star. Gina
Gershon hasn’t had a part this good since Bound
and tears into it with relish (though her bush should probably get a
supporting credit), Hirsch brings a surprising sympathy to the amoral Chris
who, as a man who murders his mother and pimps out his sister, may be the most
loathsome character who’ll scuttle across the screen all year, while Haden
Church stays just the right side of dumb yokel as Ansel. Almost always the best thing in
everything she does, the wonderful Juno Temple this time is just edged out by
McConaughey’s oily manipulator but gives yet another star-making performance as
the childlike but ultimately steely Dottie.

Perverse, sadistic, provocative and darkly funny, Killer Joe is obscenely enjoyable,
unwholesome fun.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email:

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