Killer Joe Reviews
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.
Chris Smith (played by Emile Hirsch) is in a bind. He owes a loan-shark a fair bit of money, and the man has threatened to kill him if he does not produce the money within a few days. He does not have the money. He strikes upon a get-rich-quick plan: have his estranged mother killed and collect on the insurance money. He involves his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), who buys into the deal for a share of the profit (him and Chris' mother are divorced and don't see eye-to-eye, so it wasn't a tough sell). Ansel then involves his 2nd wife, Sharla (Gina Gershon) and, due to her finding out about the plan, his daughter, Chris' sister, Dottie (Juno Temple). They hire a professional killer (who happens to also be a cop), "Killer Joe" Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). When they cannot pay him upfront, they reach an unusual deal on how to retain his services. This complicates matters, a lot.
An engaging and funny yet simultaneously dark and graphic drama. Clever plot - quite solid with some great twists, double-crosses and triple-crosses. Good sub-plots and some wonderfully quirky dialogue. Tarantinoesque at times. In fact the whole movie has a Tarantino-like vibe, but not quite with the same polish and attention-to-detail that a Tarantino movie has.
Ending is a bit unsatisfactory, and does negate some of the good that went before. It was heading for an even higher rating...
Great performances all round. Matthew McConaughey is wonderfully cool and aloof, yet damaged, as Killer Joe. He reminded me of his performance in True Detective Season 1. Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple and Gino Gershon are well cast and don't put a foot wrong. Pick of the these is Juno Temple, who mixes innocence and beauty and creates a wonderful sense of mystery and ambiguity about her character.
An understated, underrated gem.