Killer Joe: Reviewed
With a title like ‘Killer Joe’ you pretty much know what to expect when you walk into the cinema. This is possibly the comeback film for William Friedkin who in my opinion hasn’t made a film with any gravitas since the heyday of the 70’s. Such classics as The French Connection (71) and The Exorcist (73).
I must warn you that the film is quite disturbing and justly deserves the 18 certificate.
The story is based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts and it has a claustrophobic quality with its limited scenery set primarily in a Texas trailer park. The film follows the disintegration of a dysfunctional trailer-trash family. Thomas Haden Church (Sideways / Spider-Man 3) plays Ansel Smith the Father figure who is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. He’s a harmless low life who shares his mobile home with new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon from Bound / Showgirls) who is also wicked Stepmom to Ansel’s daughter Dottie played with great naivety by English actress Juno Temple (daughter of Brit director Julian). Although Dottie has the body of a grown woman she unfortunately has the mind of a little girl and is also dotty by nature.
The film kicks off from the start with the arrival of Ansel’s son and petty drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) who has been kicked out of his maternal Mothers abode. Things are not going well for Chris. He owes money to the local mobster and needs to pay up otherwise he is dead meat. Chris finds out that his Mother has a life policy worth $50,000 and together with his Dad Ansel they set out to hire a professional to eliminate the old girl so they can collect on the policy.
Enter ‘Killer Joe’ a crooked police detective with a sideline as a hit man. A part played with relish by another comeback kid Matthew McConaughey. Hopefully he will put those dreadful rom-coms behind him and start being a serious actor once again as shown in Lone Star (96) and A Time to Kill (96).
McConaughy plays Joe with a calm methodical approach dressed all in black including a black Stetson and black shades like some wild west Prince of Darkness. Joe wants payment up front but Chris won’t have the money until the job is done. Therefore Joe agrees to take his sister Dottie as a retainer until he gets his payment. The relationship between ‘Killer Joe’ and dotty Dottie is the disturbing element and the film is also very violent and has some icky sexual overtones. Put it this way you’ll never look at a KFC in quite the same way again.
Despite all the darkness there are quite a few laugh out loud moments in this black comedy. I enjoyed the film which sounds like a weird word to use. But my movie entertainment level is usually gauged by how much I think about it afterwards and I’ve thought about it a lot.
I’m not sure that it will be a huge commercial hit but Killer Joe will almost certainly go down in cinema history as one of the great “love to hate” bad guy characters.
Four out of five On general release June 29.