Killer Joe - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Killer Joe Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2012
It is like the Coen brothers meet David Lynch in this depraved, vicious and incredibly gripping festival of sadism that Friedkin puts us through - a spectacular thriller that is both brutal and hilarious in a twisted way, like what he did in his fantastic Bug, also written by Tracy Letts.
Super Reviewer
September 18, 2015
A young drug dealer falls into debt, so he trades his sister for the services of a hitman, who will kill his mother for insurance money.
Tracy Letts and William Friedkin follow up their relentless, paranoid thriller Bug with an even more relentless thriller in Killer Joe. Like Bug, it's almost impossible to tell where the plot is going, yet each turn is logical and character-driven. The action moments seem shoe-horned in, but the interactions between the characters are profoundly disturbing and occasionally disarmingly funny.
The performances by Matthew McConaughey (the first film in his insurgence toward Oscar-worthy work), Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple, and Gina Gershon are all fantastic. Hirsch and Temple are especially good with characters stripped of dignity and gazing wide-eyed at the world's depravity.
Overall, Letts and Friedkin are great together, and Killer Joe is a wonderfully disturbing follow-up.
Super Reviewer
½ July 17, 2012
I loved this play. I remember it being riotously funny. The humor just didn't translate to the film, and opening up the locations didn't help it any.
Super Reviewer
September 19, 2013
While there are certainly plenty of good elements (a twisted sense of humor and captivating performances from McConaughey and Thomas Haden Church), "Killer Joe" is basically like that kid you once knew that would say increasingly perverted, ridiculous things, as if to dare everyone to be offended -- and much like that kid, it eventually just gets annoying.
Super Reviewer
½ April 22, 2013
Should have known...another one of those movies that critics liked. Yeesh!
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2011
Killer Joe ended up being a pretty dark, but funny movie. I don't think this movie will be for everyone. It only will attract those of us who like these gritty dark humor indie flicks. I think the performances were the best thing to come from this movie. The characters are all a little off the wall nutty. Which is a common thing in indie films. There was never a boring moment. It's a violent movie with a lot of nudity. I give Juno much props for being able to have the courage to be so comfortable with herself to go nude so much in her films. McConaughey does a really great job in this movie. He is so believable as the character it's creepy. I love Emile Hirsch and he does a great job here as well. It's really a good thriller if you can handle all the quirks that comes with it. I would see it again. So if your in the mood for a disturbing movie with some dark humor and odd characters, this one would be for you.
Super Reviewer
February 9, 2013
Simple plot....with strange characters! Great performance from Matthew McConaughey. It has it's brutal and shocking moments that will make you feel like you need to rinse your eyeballs afterwards. Overall an entertaining, if slightly weird film.
Super Reviewer
½ August 2, 2011
After a six year absence, William Friedkin returns with this adaptation of Tracy Letts's play Killer Joe- a deep fried southern gothic neo noir crime thriller.

Chris Smith is a young drug dealer who, in order to pay off a sizable debt he owes to the wrong kind of people, decides to hire Joe Cooper- a detective who moonlights as a hit man- to kill his mom so he can collect on the insurance money. Unable to afford Joe's fee upfront, he uses his simple and childlike sister as a 'retainer' for Joe in the meantime. There's a bit more to it than that, but I don't want to spoil the twists, turns, and surprises.

This film is a good study of being in way too deep. None of the characters are all that likable, yet that is part of the fun. Sometimes it is good to see bad people deal with the consequences of the crap hitting the fan. It's twisted, lurid, and about as dark as it gets when it comes to black humor.

The material is very trashy, and this sure isn't for everyone, but it does have a good sense of style, and the performances are what keep it all together. Emile Hirsch is good as Chris, and he really shines at showing desperation. Juno Temple is fun as the naive and childlike Dottie, and Thomas Hayden Church and Gina Gershon (and her bush) make for a good trailer trash couple as Chris and Dottie's Dad and stepmom. The real highlight though is Matthew McConaughey as the title character. He brings a great mix of charm and menace to the proceedings, and is a joy to watch.

The film is sick, twisted, but still kinda fun. If you think you can deal with lurid subject matter and tons of unsympathetic and grimy losers, then give this one a chance.
Super Reviewer
½ February 13, 2013
Killer Joe is an exploitation film that has no apologies about its content. This is full black humor, with some disturbing events and characters that will get under your skin. If you aren't a fan of the exploitation genre or at least can handle gore and sex, stay far away; this will be one of your least favorite movies. For those that can handle it, there's some fantastic performances and hilarious moments. Matthew McConaughey I'm normally not that big on, but his performance in this movie is mad, bordering on sadistic, and completely evil at its most pure. It's one of the best bad guy performances I've seen since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. The rest of the cast is good too. Thomas Haden Church is just hilarious. Juno Temple is an up and coming actress with real potential and she shows no fear of anything. Gina Gershon is playing a character I've seen her play before, but she does it well. The only person I thought wasn't on par was Emile Hirsch. It might be the fault of the screenplay, but he is a great actor and this wasn't his best (see Into the Wild). The plot has been labeled as lurid and I completely agree with that. Some will find it too much, but I found it entertaining. The label on the DVD calls it a Red Neck, trailer trash murder story. If you are interested after that, then definitely go for it. It's a worthwhile film for those who like this genre. Everyone else will be appalled and will not "get it".
Super Reviewer
½ January 15, 2013
Director William Friedkin's first directorial effort since 2006's Bug is a good thriller with a terrific cast of actors. Matthew McConaughey delivers his best performance since The Lincoln Lawyer and he is absolutely chilling in the role of Joe Cooper. He brings a certain deadly, psychotic charm to the character that it makes it one of the standout aspects of the film. This is a skillfully executed piece of cinema that is among the best recent works of director William Friedkin, who directed some terrific classic films such as The French Connection and The Exorcist. The plot is engaging and the cast do a fine job with the material that is raw, gritty and in your face. I really didn't expect much from this film, but was pleasantly surprised. Friedkin's directing is sharp, and he still can tell an immersive story. At times the film clearly shows its flaws, however McConaughey's performance makes this one worth seeing, and along with Emile Hirsch are the film's highpoints. The tone of the film is dark, brooding and most often disturbing. This is a well executed picture that if you come across it, should definitely check out. The performances are solid and the directing and story are accomplished enough to make Killer Joe an impressive picture that is sure to entertain you, and is one of the most impressive thrillers of 2012. William Friedkin still has the knack to create good pictures and he has surpassed his last effort, which was good, but lacked in terms of memorable storytelling. Killer Joe is one of his best works in the last few years, and if you're a fan of his, definitely give this a viewing.
Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2012
Matthew McConaughey probably gives one of his best, if not his best performance of his career as the villainous Killer Joe, but sadly the film does not have one ounce of human kindness in it and looses sight of what kind of film it is along the way. It`s dreadful, twisted and lacks substance and prefers cruelty
Super Reviewer
December 21, 2012
Friedkin is back and by golly he be back in a big way. This filthy southern fried thriller is a story of bedraggled & repugnant souls attempting to dig themselves out of one vulgar hole in life, only by burrowing themselves in deeper, more squalid ones.

At times it felt like I was part of a bizarre experiment, one that forced me to ponder just how much I could feel empathy for a walk of life that I found so repulsive. Even though they were being subjected to unspeakable acts of degradation, it was still rather difficult to muster up an ounce of compassion.

What kept me watching was Friedkin's smart direction, but McConaughey's magnetic performance. So easily this performance could have gone the way of the absurd. Instead, McConaughey is reticent, but wields, among many things, a ferocious intensity that is hard to take your eyes off of. In this turn, he deserves all of the praise that has been so generously heaped upon him.

Is it a perfect vehicle for McConaughey? No. However, it does show that the director and star have one major thing in common: they still have a few tricks up their sleeve.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2012
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 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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2012
Friedkin is back in full form. McConaughey is a real treat as a stone cold psycho. As perverse as funny, if you happen to enjoy a ride full of the most vile things imaginable done with brutal honesty but with a warped (and let's say "refreshing") sense of humor.
Super Reviewer
½ November 1, 2012
a black black comedy and helluva good time. friedkin at 77 still has a few cards up his sleeve. i always knew matthew mcconaughey must have a talent haha. gotta love that poster too
Super Reviewer
½ October 28, 2012
The last time I visited a film directed by William Friedkin was his highly underrated psychological horror "Bug". That also happened to be written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Tracy Letts and this foray into the darker recesses of the human psyche is just as impressive and unrelenting as their earlier collaboration.
Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is a young Texan lowlife that has found himself in considerable debt to local nasties. To get himself out of trouble, he decides to murder his mother and collect the insurance money. He runs it by his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and they decide to hire Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) an amoral police detective, who also happens to be a contract killer. As they don't have the money to pay up front, Chris offers his sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a retainer until the insurance comes through but things of this nature don't always go to plan and Chris, Ansel and Dottie realise they're in way over their heads.
Upon our introduction to this films characters we have a stepmother who answers the door while wearing absolutely nothing from the waist down and the father spits on his own floor after coughing up a lung. Straight away its apparent that these people are completely dysfunctional and lack any moral fibre. From there, things get progressively worse but what you wouldn't count on, is meeting anyone else actually more disturbed than these detestable people. That is, until McConaughey's Joe Cooper enters the fray. He is far more depraved than the degenerates and reprobates that we have been introduced to, leaving you with an all round uncomfortable feeling of dread and questioning yourself as to why you're even spending time with such disreputable company. That's partly the hook of the film though. It becomes a bit of a guilty pleasure watching what will happen next when there are seemingly no rules or depths that the characters won't stoop to. Friedkin and Letts deserve the utmost credit for their uncompromising approach here and in a film with no shortage of brave and bold performances, it's McConaughey that truly excels. He's a dark, brooding character and a far site from his recent rom-com's. If he really wants to change his image then this is the way to do it. This man can certainly act and after this, I'm not sure he could go back to rom-com's even if he wanted to. This is a character that will stick in the minds of many for quite some time. Kudos to the bravery of Gina Gershon also though. She commits herself to one of the most disturbing and outrageous scenes you're likely to see this year, or any year for that matter. I'm sure by now that many people have at least heard of the depravity of an almost surreal scene involving a (now infamous) chicken drumstick... I didn't know whether to laugh or balk when it arrived and it left me wondering if the sales of KFC will suffer as a result of this. Poor old Colonel Sanders will be rolling in his grave as it brings a whole new meaning to their slogan "finger licking good". This is a scene that seems to have overshadowed the word on the film itself which is not entirely unfair as the scene is most certainly shocking but there's far more to this. Apart from the excellent performances, Friedkin's direction is up close and personal and captures the claustrophobic nature of Letts' writing and his blacker than black humour. It's a lot like "Bug" whereby a lot of the drama comes from the close proximity of the characters. The tension is only heightened because of this and it challenges the viewer to even question their moral standpoint on why would you even find enjoyment in this seedy and lascivious world.
An extremely black, depraved and uncompromising piece of work but it's also strangely captivating and possesses a humour that's "darker'n a black steer's tookus on a moonless prairie night" - as a wiser feller than myself once rambled.
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2012
Available for hire. Terms and conditions will apply.

A very weird crooked good movie with a messed up ending! This movie was funny, exciting, and sickening. All of the actors did a great job, and everybody played a vital role in the success of this movie. Killer Joe has a down and dirty indie feel which is totally right. The cinematography is immediate and not artsy in any way as if you are clearly seeing something you wish wasn't happening. The final quarter ramps up with a tour 'de force of the macabre supplied by McConaughey's character and taken home with a kind of surprise loose-end "wham-bam" finale. All in all, this really works and separates itself from more typical murder stories.

Finding himself in considerable debt, Chris a Texan drug dealer, decides the only solution is to murder his mother to collect the insurance money. Getting together with his father, the ex-husband of Chris' mother, they decide to hire Joe Cooper a contract killer, who also happens to be a police detective. The plan is that the money will go to Chris' sister Dottie. However due to the size of the contract fee, Chris agrees that Joe can take Dottie as a retainer until the insurance comes through.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
September 3, 2012
This is one nasty, alarming, but very involving movie that wallows in darkness and plays it up for laughs. Killer Joe is a dysfunctional family drama, a crime thriller, and a mesmerizing character study when it comes to the lessons of amorality. Based on the play by Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), Joe (Matthew McConaughey) is a crooked cop who works as an assassin on the side. A weasely loser (Emile Hirsch) and his family hire Joe to kill their mother for the insurance money. Things get out of hand in frequent measure, with splashes of brutal violence, healthy amounts of sex and full-frontal nudity, and a disturbing sexual act with chicken that more than earn this film its adults-only NC-17 rating. What makes the movie rise above base exploitation is its depraved, deep-fried sense of humor. There is plenty of uncomfortable laughter and guffaws. The end of the film, during a fever-pitch of violence, is so sudden, so kooky, so debauched, that my friend and I burst out laughing. Without its wicked sense of humor, and its sharp ear for working-class dialogue, the movie could be accused of wallowing in the muck. There?s also the terrific acting, chiefly from McConaughey. He gives a hypnotic performance, chilling, unpredictable, and deeply committed to retribution. When he zeroes his cold eyes on you, boy does the flesh crawl. It?s an intense performance and arguably the best of the man?s career. Directed by William Friedkin (who also directed the 2006 adaptation of Letts? play, Bug) with brutish Úlan, Killer Joe is one nasty piece of work, but given the right audience, it could prove to be a perverse entertainment.

Nate?s Grade: B
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ July 18, 2012
The poster should make no sense until you watch this leviathan of a film. Matthew McConaughey played one of the best villains in a noir film since Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. He was destructive but kept his composure. The story is wild and raw with a strong dose of Gallows Humor. Another great entry from Friedkin and Letts since the ending left my jaw dropping for a solid 20 seconds.

It really is that crazy of a film.
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