Killer Joe - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Killer Joe Reviews

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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.
½ June 3, 2016
"Killer Joe" feels like a Quentin Tarantino movie, but with none of the likability of one.
Super Reviewer
½ May 17, 2016
A nasty southern tale of all the taboo subject. Killer Joe is a almost an homage to Fargo (but much darker) about a hired gunman to create insurance fraud gone wrong. There was not a single likeable character in this depressing tale of depravity, it was surprising to see McConaughey playing the villain though. It makes us laugh at the uncomfortable situation with the sophistication, but you certainly don't want to watch it again.
May 14, 2016
Gritty, intriguing, dark, funny crime-drama.

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.
May 12, 2016
Man, Friedkin can make a movie. One of the first movies featuring Matthew McConaughey that turned his career from "handsome lead in a rom-com" to one of the more celebrated and talked about actors working today. His role as the sadistic hitman-for-hire cop in Texas is fantastic. He kills it. And William Friedkin's direction of Tracy Lett's script (their second team-up after "Bug") is just top notch. It's a trailer trash crime thriller, with a good cast, and a fine story...and a few scenes that are just incredibly harsh to watch.
April 21, 2016
Its an understatement to say it is dark. It is a psychopathic thriller featuring emotionless characters who have never heard of the concept of being ethical. It could have worked even if it was setup during the cavemen era for its barbarism. One thing to ponder though is how they roped in Matthew McConaughey and how he made this watchable.

Chris (Emile Hirsch) belongs to a dysfunctional family and is neck deep in debts with the wrong guy. He overhears that his mother has a fat insurance policy and the beneficiary is his young sister Dottie (Juno Temple). He convinces his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) of a plan to murder her mother by putting a hit on her. His father who has divorced and re-married Sharla (Gina Gershon) agrees to this and so does the rest of the family unanimously. Chris recommends Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) a reputed hit-man also a cop who has a strict advance pay policy. When the family could not meet that, Joe gives them another offer.

From the word go the tone is set to be sleazy and gory and the same continues for the rest of the movie. The actors with their limited talent gives in their best shot even if the script does not demand of it. The characters, their home is presented in different ways during different circumstances. For example when they start out all are scarcely dressed, drugs everywhere, spitting in the living room etc, rest of the scenes it is spic and span with all of them well dressed throughout. McConaughey who mostly plays the well-dressed lawyer or a boyish charmer takes the darker side this time as a sleazy, sadistic bad guy but not betraying his Texan accent. The final humiliation scene works well as a shocker. The movie knows its target audience and the selling points playing close to its strengths with hardly any deviation. It could have been lot worse but stays afloat with a director who has a presence of mind and a steady hand.

Mainstream thriller done with a solid business mind
½ April 12, 2016
4.25 out of 5 stars. Not for everyone -- very dark, good flow and great acting.
April 9, 2016
Extraordinary piece of filmmaking from an outstanding cast. Brutal, tense, distasteful and yet utterly brilliant.
March 11, 2016
Equal parts hilarious, vile, and demented, elevated by top-notch performances across the board led by a magnetic McConaughey.
January 29, 2016
This is where Mathew McConaughey turned from rom-coms to a serious actor. This is difficult material and the directed steered this crazy train down a steep slope into the messiness of morally corrupt individuals. Well worth a watch if you have the stomach for it.
January 21, 2016
Welcome to Killer Joe's Texas, where the men are violent, the women are naked, and all are dumb and ruthless. Killer Joe was a play, and you can tell when you watch the movie. It has that claustrophobic feel that is the hallmark of movies based on plays: only a few contained locations and dialogue heavy. Also, like many movies based on plays, it's EXTREMELY WELL WRITTEN! The pacing, the plot, the dialogue are all razor sharp. You can tell that the actors are in pig heaven. The very fact that so many big stars took heavy pay cuts to be in such a small film should tell you something. They're wallowing in it and savoring every moment. Every scene crackles with tension and deadpan humor. Jaw-dropping, thought provoking, and frequently hilarious, Killer Joe was one of the best movies of 2012.
December 12, 2015
I had wanted to see this for a while as I believe it is the film that turned Matthew McConaughey's career around. He plays against type and is great in this film that is twisted and filled with very dark humour. Unfortunately I didn't like the story or anyone else in the film so can't recommend it. Worth watching solely for McConaughey's performance.
Super Reviewer
½ December 3, 2015
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.
½ November 25, 2015
Did you ever think, for one moment, a fictional film could put you off fried chicken for life? If the answer is no, you've clearly never witnessed Killer Joe. Crafted by the man who brought us such classics as The French Connection and The Exorcist, William Friedkin comes close to outshining many a controversial director, by creating an extremely difficult and in some cases, beyond watchable nightmare, that will most likely divide opinion for another 10 years or so. Killer Joe follows the Smith family, a dim whited and simple family, who find themselves in way over their head, when a plot to kill their own mother, in order to gain her life insurance, goes well beyond wrong. At points playing like an early Coen Brothers movie, Killer Joe has a peculiar charm and sense of humor, its script, chalk full of indecencies, some too disturbing not to break a nervous cackle over, which will leave many audience members reeling in anger, and that's kind of the point. It feels unbearable, mostly when McConaughey is sharing screen time with anybody. He snarls and sweats his way through the material like slime, dripping from a rusted drain pipe, its such a demanding performance, even his co stars look completely baffled for the films run time. Friedkin really goes to town here, allowing the source material and theatre structure of the script plenty of time to breathe, its a welcomed turn of events, rarely seen is a film where actors can slowly, calmly and coherently allow the dialogue to take over, this shows off the writings potential in a mammoth way. At the end of the day, Killer Joe has all the hallmarks of a Ken Russell film, close to the bone and daring, however it is so pungent that a vast quantity of cinema goers will despise everything about it. Its not user friendly, its exceptionally slow, its high tension, blood curdiling and completely uncomfortable to watch. Roll that up with an exterior layer of sexism and abusive behavior towards women and your seriously making this a hard sell for anyone. Killer Joe doesnt care if you loath it, mainly it just wants a reaction and you'd have to be a stone cold killer not to give it one. Harsh, unsettling and brutal, Killer Joe will frighten off more people than it may appeal to, however those willing to sit through its subject matter, may find an experience quite like no other.
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