Killer Joe Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?s Grade: B
It really is that crazy of a film.