Killer Joe - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Killer Joe Reviews

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½ May 11, 2017
I have never seen anything like this film. All the acting is great and you get a stand out performance from Matthew McConaughey. A true dark comedy not for everyone. I could see a lot of people stop watching this film because a few of the darker scenes. But the movie does progressively get better and better.
April 26, 2017
Being the most contemporary film directed by Academy Award-winner William Friedkin, Killer Joe sounded like a thrilling experience.

The high point of William Friedkin's career came from the 1970's with inconsistent results in the following decades, but given the popular reception of Killer Joe and the man's ability to build a strongly intense atmosphere in The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973), I figured that perhaps Killer Joe would serve as a return to form for the director. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case.
Killer Joe plays out much like a stage production. There is a shortage of atmosphere because the reliance falls entirely upon the extended periods of dialogue rather than any particular technique in the cinematography or use of music. I can forgive a film like that if it has interesting characters, but Killer Joe carries no such thing. Killer Joe's story focuses around the titular character's planned murder of Adele, the matriarch of the Smith family. Much of the dialogue focuses upon clarifying the complicated relationship between the members of the family as they find themselves getting involved in the murder and the titular Joe Cooper begins to involve himself with the young Dottie Smith. The structure of the family relationship is familiar and there isn't much time to develop any of the characters beyond the archetypes they are, meaning that it is left to the cast to save the film. Killer Joe has some impeccably talented actors, but they're not enough to assist a production that just won't support them on any level.
Killer Joe is a steadily-paced film, but there is rarely anything that actually happens in the film. The murder conspiracy at the heart of the narrative has a neo-noir element to it as does the dark colour scheme in the night time sequences and slow burning atmosphere, but rather than putting any major development into the characters there are characters who are presented as being equally relevant and arbitrary to each other. Everyone in the story is simply a McGuffin to move the narrative rather than any kind of actual character. The most developed characters are Joe Cooper and Dottie Smith, and yet Joe Cooper is kept too elusive and mysterious to understand all that much of while Dottie Smith is much of a background archetype. Since the characters are all relatively meaningless and few of them are all that likable for any reason, there is little reason to care about any of them. Ultimately, audiences are left with a slow film full of uninteresting and unlikable characters where essentially nothing happens, and what does happen is effectively cliche and lifeless. This is the experience that is Killer Joe, and as a result there is no atmospheric engagement to draw in audiences who have seen it all before or are desensitized to the mildly explicit use of blood.
But I will give some credit to some of the stylish elements in Killer Joe. Despite its budgetary limitations, William Friedkin's eye for imagery helps to make the Southern Gothic nature of the story into a reality. The scenery is dilapidated and the colour scheme is very dry in the day and a dark shade of blue in the night, making the story feel grim. The actors prove themselves able to embrace this tone, even if the lack of character development stands in the way of allowing any major impact to take effect.
Dottie Smith is the only majorly interesting character of the film since she is the one really innocent character in the narrative. Despite supporting the notion of her mother being murdered, this simply stems from the violence in Southern social norms which she has accepted as natural, yet she still finds a way to maintain her innocence in the process. Juno Temple captures this complicated mindset with such a sweet and innocent demeanour which becomes more fragile as Joe Cooper becomes more involved in her life. Juno Temple captures this with a very restrained and emotionally withdrawn nature, yet she intensifies it profusely when she is confronted with very personal insecurities and uncertainty. Juno Temple perfectly captures the nature of Dottie Smith's shattered innocence with the most soul of any character in the film, making herself the most consistently engaging presence
Matthew McConaughey is also in solid form. Though the story is far too subtle with the nature of "Killer" Joe Cooper to be fully embraced, Matthew McConaughey works to keep him elusive and very professional about his job as a contract killer, showing his darker side only at selective moments in the film. There isn't enough screen time for him to really captivate audiences as he should, but the actor shows an inherently dark nature which is very unlike that of his more stereotypical persona from his better-known films from the turn of the decade. Matthew McConaughey shows a more twisted dramatic flair than ever before in Killer Joe, taking a step closer to the dramatic charisma that would lead him to Academy Award recognition in later years.
Emile Hirsch delivers a deeply engaged an intense performance. Though his character is a very familiar one, Emile Hirsch manages to keep consistently in touch with the character Chris Smith by consistently conveying his constant sense of fear and insecurity. He is constantly under threat by the enforcers out to get him and the family he has brought his issues to, and he is constantly physical with his expression of frustration. He also shares a powerful chemistry with Thomas Hayden Church who too is a predictably powerful presence in a role empowered by the way he says so much through the use of very few words. Gina Gershon also delivers a strong performance in one of the best efforts of her career. She plays Sharla Smith as the sheer epitome of white trash and sleaze within the Smith household with a careless and self-indulgent nature which is as bleak as the world around her.

Killer Joe wrings some strong performances out of its inherently talented cast, but due to its unlikable characters and slow pace, audiences are left with a atmospherically-bereft story in which so little happens.
March 17, 2017
Wtf did I just watch? ð???ð???
Super Reviewer
½ February 6, 2017
On the one hand, Killer Joe does get better as it progresses, but on the other, it's also the first Friedkin movie I haven't loved.
January 27, 2017
It was ok - but it was more uncomfortable for me - not at all funny.
½ January 26, 2017
Killer Joe narra la historia de una famlia disfuncional de Texas. Un drug-dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) está endeudado con la mafia, a raíz que su madre le robase toda la droga. Su plan para recuperar el dinero pasa por contratar un sicario, Joe (Matthew McConaughey), para asesinar a su madre y cobrar el seguro que tiene como beneficiaria a su hermana Dottie (Juno Temple). En complot con su padre y su madrastra los hermanos planean terminar con la vida de la madre, pero no tienen dinero para arreglarse con el sicario. Entonces, surge la idea de usar a Dottie como 'garantía' de cumplimiento de un futuro pago. Un manejo magistral del humor negro, perversión sexual, diferentes formas de intimidación psicológica y violencia son los componentes de esta película. Muy bien lograda
January 21, 2017
Surprisingly good film absolutely great acting by Matthew McConaughey I am joyed this film but hands-down in the top three worst ending as I've ever seen on film.
½ January 9, 2017
The story of corrupt cop is a staple for most classic film makers and one that Friedkin is all too familiar with. However this does not hinder him from bringing a fresh approach to an already interesting screenplay. An uncompromising film that allows Friedkin to showcase all the tricks he has acquired throughout his extensive career. With clever casting lead by the flawless McConaughey, Killer Joe is a dark and twisted story that draws the viewer into the sordid truth of human morality. A film that does not try strive for artistic perfection at the expense of entertainment. A refreshing blend of experience and youth allows this film to stand out from the crowd and is certainly worth a watch. A must see for all KFC enthusiasts.
December 29, 2016
Killer Joe is a fiendish, shocking, darkly humorous descent into trailer park trash madness, with Matthew McConaughey turning in a fierce and intimidating standout performance
December 3, 2016
Dark and twisted with the whole cast playing their role perfectly.
½ November 14, 2016
Derivative but still entertaining.
½ October 24, 2016
"Killer Joe" tries to be a funny and gritty black comedy, and while the writing can be clever, the supporting cast give such mediocre performances that almost none of the line delivery works. In addition to that, the third act becomes a tasteless and vile exercise whose sole purpose is to be as gross as possible. Cup that with the half-baked ending, and you have yourself a sleazy Oliver Stone knock-off that fails to be entertaining on any level despite the fact that McConaughey captures his role well.
October 23, 2016
Jet black comedy disguised as a crime film. Emile Hirsch and his trailer park family (Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershong, and Juno Temple) hire a Dallas Police Detective who moonlights as a hitman, known as Killer Joe and played by the excellent Matthew McConaughey, to kill Church's ex-wife so Temple can collect her life insurance. The one catch is that they don't have the money yet to pay McConaughey so he take Temple as a "retainer." Things go downhill from there. This set-up sounds like it could easily be a glib comedy/crime picture ALA "Get Shorty" or "Out of Sigh," this film was directed by William Friedkin who brings an awfully hard edge to the film (it's actually rated NC-17) filled with a number of disturbing moments of sex and violence. Written by Tracy Letts, I'm very curious to see more films from him. My main complaint is that the ending of the film felt like a bit of a punchline, but overall this is a terrific film that will certainly not be for all tasted, but will certainly delight fan of this sort of dark disturbing comedies.
September 26, 2016
You better have one hell of a movie on your hands if you are going to call rape and sexual abuse 'dark comedy'. It has to be earned. Despite stellar ensemble performances, especially by Temple and McConaughey, Friedkin fails to earn such scenes in Killer Joe. You feel like he was having so much fun with the drumstick bit he forgot he was making a caper film.
September 21, 2016
Matthew Mconaughy shreds the screen in Killer Joe, a story about a police detective that moonlights as a hired assassin. All the performances were great, but Mconaughy compleatly steals the show as the most unnerving character I've seen him play yet. The plot wasn't very complex, but it didn't really need to be, save for one good twist at the end. I usually am not a fan of the ambiguous ending, but it worked perfectly in this film, one that on one should miss
½ September 15, 2016
Killer Joe is a 2012 adaption of the controversial Tracy Letts play of the same name and doesn't live up to its reputation of being disturbing, nor well-made, nor deserving of it's NC-17 rating. As Letts wrote the screenplay, the film is very faithful to the original story. Young drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) finds himself in deep trouble when his mother steals his stash and drug money, now needing to pay his crime boss back or it's his life he hires psychopathic cop/hit man Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill her so he can collect the insurance money. Being short on payment for Joe, Chris prostitutes his mentally unstable sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as compensation. Naturally, the plan falls apart culminating in a climax of brutality and gunfire. Shocking as this may sound, the film presents itself as a black comedy.

In fact, the outline of the story is the only shocking aspect to Killer Joe as it's carried out with frustrating ineptitude and amateurism. Friedkin reportedly would only shoot a maximum of two takes for most scenes and the movie seems to suffer the consequences of these decisions, making Killer Joe feel more like an unrehearsed play than a bona fide film. There are several drawn-out scenes where the actors engage in long-winded, unintelligible dialogue while appearing to have no consensus on the scene's tone, making their interactions feel very clunky and unnatural. This lack of organic chemistry is further weakened by Emile Hirsch's dreadful performance. Juno Temple does stand out with a very nice performance as Dottie and Haden Church is likable as the hopelessly dumb father, but they still can't save the film. The cinematography looks sloppy as though a film student was messing around with the focus, aperture, and color filter (shots are either overly bright, heavily saturated, super fuzzy, or sometimes simultaneously all three) giving the movie a low-rent quality, which is only worsened by the choreography.

The film has been noted for its intense violence, yet the violence is embarrassingly unconvincing and cheesy. There is a scene where Hirsch's character gets beaten up by two thug bikers and reacts to a kick to the face that visibly misses him by a foot. A close up of his face covered in corn syrup is then shown as the beating continues and reveals even more clearly they aren't making any contact, and at one point Hirsch has a delayed response to one of the strikes. Another example of how cheap the violence is during the climax where Joe, in a psychotic rage, mercilessly pulverizes Chris's face with a tin can and he's revealed to have a perfectly-shaped face afterwards with fake blood brushed over it. No swelling, no disfigurement, nor any kind of sign to accurately indicate the trauma of such a savage beating, just a few simple fake blood brushes over the face. Killer Joe was given an NC-17 for two scenes: the phony tin can beating, and because a woman is forced to fellate a chicken leg held near a man's crotch (an image that has been done over and over in a lot of movies).

To give films like this an NC-17 rating while giving more extreme films (Hostel 2, Bruno, etc.) an R is totally random and exemplifies the MPAA's futility. High school-age viewers under 18 will be more likely to yawn at the film's lame violent effects and smirk at the film's silly poultry scene. Killer Joe amounts to being a derisive movie due to a pitiful attempt of adapting a provocative play into a successful picture. Viewers should just skip it and watch Friedkin's The Exorcist instead; it is everything Killer Joe isn't.
½ September 12, 2016
this is one fucked up movie but nobody told the movie
½ August 13, 2016
Good but not great. Tries too hard to push boundaries.
½ July 6, 2016
Interesting plot but it works out. A very dark film.
Super Reviewer
½ July 3, 2016
Eccentric film feels like an old b-movie, with modern day sleaze bags characters. Funny in a perverse way, but none of the characters are likable which always puts a movie in a steep hole that this one can't completely climb out of.
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