Hi, Bryan Here….
I didn’t know what quite to expect from ‘Killer Joe’, but after watching it, I got more than I bargained for. ‘Killer Joe’ was directed by William Friedkin who is most known for directing ‘The French Connection’, ‘The Exorcist’, and the recent film ‘Bug’. Friedkin has been out of the spotlight for some time now, but his return with ‘Killer Joe’, the 76 year old Oscar winning director proves he has not missed a step.
‘Killer Joe’ was originally a stage play by Tracy Letts, which both Letts and Friedkin both collaborated on ‘Bug’, and was more comical than anything. With ‘Killer Joe’, the comedy is much darker and adds a family size serving of ultra-violence and torture. Make no mistake about it. ‘Killer Joe’ is rated NC-17, and it earns that rating from the very beginning.
‘Killer Joe’ is a southern noir film that combines comedy, terror, and red-necks perfectly. Plus it takes place in Dallas, however all of the film was shot in New Orleans. ‘Killer Joe’ is actually Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), who is a police detective, but moonlights as a hitman-for hire. The story centers around a red-neck family who live in a trailer park in rural Dallas that consists of Ansel Smith (Thomas Hayden Church), a mechanic, his waitress wife Sharla (Gina Gershon), his scumbag of a son Chris (Emile Hirsch), and his daughter from his previous marriage Dottie (Juno Temple).
The story starts with Chris coming to Ansel and Sharla’s trailer home to talk with Ansel about killing off his ex-wife to get her insurance money, because he has a sizable debt owed to local gangsters. This is where Chris hires ‘Killer Joe’ who has a fee of $25,000 up front for his services. Chris is unable to pay ‘Killer Joe’ up front, so joe proposes that Chris supply a retainer fee in the form of Dottie, Chris’s sister. The retainer would allow sexual access to Dottie at anytime, and when Dottie finds out about this, she seems to be perfectly fine with it.
As you may expect with any noir film, there are tons of complications that come up for all the characters involved. Everyone is full of lies and betrayal with the exception of Dottie. And it comes back to bite everyone in the ass. The acting in this film is out of this world. Gina Gershon deserves some kind of award for her role as Sharla. She went through some rough filming for ‘Killer Joe’. Church provides most of the comic relief in this film as he is a dim-witted guy who has a lot of good one-liners. McConaughey is mostly known for his romantic comedy roles, but once in a blue moon he shines with a very dark and sinister role. If you remember his role from ‘Frailty’, think that character, but amp that up to ten, and you have the sadistic ‘Killer Joe’. Hirsch does a good job as well, but his role gets lost in the company of others. And Temple is a fantastic actress. I expect big things from her in the future.
There is a fine line with comedy and brutal violence which can be tricky for most people to accomplish, but with Friedkin and his cast of talent, they pull it off perfectly. ‘Killer Joe’ is a wonderfully crafted film from top to bottom. There are some extremely rough patches to get through, but it ends with a powerful punch. If you have the stomach for ‘Killer Joe’, I highly recommend it.