Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Killer Joe (2012)

Comments Off on Killer Joe (2012) 20 January 2013

Studio: LionsgateKiller Joe Cover

Theatrical Release: July 27, 2012

Blu Ray Release: December 21, 2012

Director: William Friedkin


Review by James Klein

Based on the play by Tracy Letts, William Friedkin’s newest film is a blend of dark comedy, stark violence and intense situations that is both captivating, disturbing and unsettling.

Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a loser. After being kicked out of the house by his mother and in debt to a bunch of gangsters, he goes to his estranged father’s trailer to speak to him one rainy night. Dad, being just as ignorant as his son Chris, agrees to go out with him for a beer to listen what he has to say. Dad seems to be interested in his son’s new scheme: Mom apparently has a $50,000 life insurance out for her youngest daughter, 12 year old Dottie. With Mom throwing him out of the house, Chris has had it with his mother and convinces his Dad that if she dies, they could split the money four ways, including Dottie and Dad’s current wife Sharla. While neither man wants to get his hands dirty, Chris decides to hire a sheriff who moonlights as a hitman, named simply Joe (Matthew McConaughey).

When Dad and Chris meet Joe, Joe tells them upfront that he would need some sort of collateral until he is paid his fee of $25,000. Joe seems to have an appetite for young girls and what better way to service Joe’s needs than to give him Chris’s sister Dottie until the job is done and the money is paid. The family agrees and to their surprise, Dottie even goes along with it, losing her virginity to Joe and thus falling for him as he does her.

Tracy Letts screenplay, based on his play doesn’t pull any punches with the film originally NC-17 when released for good reason. While at times hilarious (ThomasHadenChurch as the dim-witted father steals almost every scene he’s in) Killer Joe is a brutal film and at times highly violent. Sure there are numerous films with a much higher body count but Friedkin, who is no stranger to violent films himself, makes every punch, every kick, every gunshot feel real. The casting of McConaughey as the ultra cool but highly unstable Killer Joe is perfect casting. Good looking and charming as he always is, McConaughey’s Joe has some inner dark turmoil flowing thru his black veins,  just waiting, almost hopefully wanting to come out. The climax of the film set inside a trailer is both humorous and shocking when Joe finds out that he may be out of his money and that someone has betrayed him by lying. What Joe does to this trailer trash family may have viewers running out of the room.

Both Letts and Friedkin have worked together in the past, as their 2006 film Bug split audiences down the line as a “love it or hate it” film (I loved Bug and Ashley Judd was disgracefully passed over for a nomination). Killer Joe is the same way. Some will get the black humor. Some will despise the film in how it will make them feel. While I do not find the film perfect (the open ending is still bugging me) by any means, I was entertained throughout and enjoyed the tremendous cast, the strange story and of course the brilliant direction by Friedkin.

The blu ray by Lionsgate is flawless. Rich blacks, deep colors and no crushing. The sound is also very good as the dialog can be heard clearly and the shocking violence ear blasting through all the audio channels. The special features does have a decent “making of” section with plenty of the cast praising both screenwriter and director (my favorite moment is during an interview with McConaughey who was disgusted with the script the first time he read it). There is also a commentary track by Friedkin who is always entertaining to listen to while talking about his films.

While not for everyone, Killer Joe is a strange and at times humorous dark thriller that should please both Letts and Friedkin fans alike.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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