Warning, the term 'trailer trash' and other derogatory slang terms for Southern State Americans will probably be used too much in this review.
Wasn't sure what to expect with this film but you do get the gist of it pretty quickly as things kick off. The films poster describes what it is and I can't really disagree, a redneck, white trailer trash, hick, corn on the cob chewing murder thriller with a strange fetish for fried chicken...in one scene.
The plot is straight forward to a point, a young Texan lad owes some local hoods money due to the lack of his drug dealing skills (I think). In order to get the money he decides to hire a hitman to kill his mother for the insurance, nothing special so far. As things get deeper we are presented with twists and double cross as family members have lied and 'Killer Joe' requires payment for his part of the deal.
To be honest the film is made by its characters. All players perform so well throughout and really set the tone. 'Ansel' played by Church is easily the best in the film, his slow lumbering baseball cap wearing 'Herman Munster' type is both amusing and captivating with that slow Southern draw. Gershon as the slutty loud mouthed mother in law is strangely sexy (that's Gershon though) despite her foul mouth and eratic behaviour, even when shes beaten its kinda hot...or is that just me?.
Hirsch plays the young inexperienced grubby hillbilly drug dealer beautifully even if the role is more standard than the rest. Temple is another piece of perfect casting with her very young pale innocent looks combined with the fantastically trashy outfit provided. Both of these young actors along with Gershon and Church make up a brilliantly low brow, dysfunctional, blue collar family of yokels that swing from moments of care and affection to violence and profanity in the blink of an eye.
Of course the main character is 'Killer Joe' played by McConaughey and he does surprise. Not really seen him in a role like this before, kinda familiar to Bale in 'American Psycho'. His ice cool calm detective lures you into a sense safety and security but can turn on a dime, yet he remains calm and collected. You can see him thinking about the situation in every scene, he is intelligent and deadly and doesn't think twice to battering a female to a bloody mess only then to act as if everything is fine and nothing happened.
The guy is scary as he smoothly talks to other characters, you know he is gonna do something nasty but when? how? how nasty? its intimidating and tense. Never knew McConaughey had it in him.
Yes the whole look, feel, sound and outcome of the film is slightly generic, the redneck visuals being cliched maybe?. There is a strong 'Deliverance' 'Blue Velvet' type theme running through the film which is uncomfortable. 'Joe's' 'taking' of 'Dottie' and sexually using her despite her youth and virginity which she proclaims is rather edgy and awkward to watch. The whole violent sequence with 'Sharla' isn't as bloody or nasty as expected but its damn suggestive and just has such a creepy vibe to it. The quick return to normality after this sequence followed by another quick burst to violent aggression from everyone is both shocking and bizarre frankly.
This film isn't outright shocking but more highly suggestive and plain cheeky, blue at times with full nudity. Even though there is much titillation it never really excites you in that way, the film has a dirty, smutty, greasy feel as if you need to have a shower whilst watching. Friedkin's curious blend of murder, dark humour, sexual content, a lot of typical Southern Americana visuals/social culture with likable oddballs is a good watch. The plot is nothing special and there are no fancy action set pieces, its all about the characters and none of them disappoint.