Running Time: 103 mins
Reviewed by: David Gillespie – Official HCF Artist
Killer Joe has had a fair bit of press in Scotland as the opening movie of the 2012 Edinburgh film festival and the fact that legendary film director, William Friedkin (French Connection, The Exorcist) is at the helm once again. There have been comparisons to Coen Brother’s thrillers (i.e. Fargo, Blood Simple) and complaints regarding the twisted sexual acts and violent content. What should be highlighted is the fantastic script and performances that are evident in this feature.
The story begins with compulsive gambler, Chris Smith (Emile Hirsh) asking his mentally challenged, layabout father, Ansel (a hilarious Thomas Haden Church) for money to payoff his debts to shady businessman, Digger (Marc Macauley). When it becomes clear that his father has not a cent to his name, Chris suggests organising a hit on his ‘no-good’ mother (Ansel’s ex-wife) and pinching the life insurance money from the peculiar but pretty, younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple). To carry out the murder they plan to use the services of a police investigator and hitman on the side, Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). They organise a meeting with Joe and ask that he waivers an advance on the payment. The hitman refuses but agrees to use the desirable Dottie as a payment retainer. Problems start to mount when Ansil’s mouthy partner, Sharla (an unrecognisable Gina Gershon) decides she wants a piece of the insurance money too. With the mob breathing down Chris neck and Joe spending more time with Dottie than attending to the job in hand, the future does not look bright for the Smith family.
Killer Joe is a delightfully repugnant and darkly hilarious dollop of pulp slop; a deformed, misguided fairytale. Featuring some of the most stomach churningly funny lines and uncomfortable sequences that you are likely to see this year, there is no way any movie fan can afford to miss this.
The cast is faultless. Thomas Haden Church delivers a priceless performance as perhaps the lowest denominator in American’s society. His relationship with the equally repulsive Sharla (Gershon) is inspired. Gershon impresses in a challenging and unflattering role. The first part of her body that we witness on screen is her fully follicled groin. She also has to participate in the film’s most unpleasant scene that is unlikely to promote the future sales of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Emile Hersh and Juno Temple offer great support as the trailer trash siblings. However the central performance rests on the broad shoulders of McConaughey and he does not let the side down. This is without a doubt the most impressive role that he has been given to date and he does not fail in taking his opportunity to shine. Not only is Joe a killing machine but he is smooth, funny and immoral. He delivers his lines in a hypnotic, southern drawl even when he goes into full psychotic mode in the final quarter.
The final act is truly uncomfortable but brilliant. Audience members gasped, groaned and laughed (sometimes at the same time) at the spectacle. This is undoubtedly an 18 certificated film. The violence is graphic and the sexual acts are perverted and so wrong.
Top marks have to be given for the clever script. There are enough laugh out loud moments to put most of this year so-called comedies to shame. Even the sight gags hit the bullseye. One sequence involving Sharla removing a bit of material from Ansil’s suit is worth the admission price alone.
Killer Joe is a delight. For a story that involves a fusty and unkempt family, this film certainly comes up fresher than any of the other offerings in the cinema this month.