Movie Review: Killer Joe

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Director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) and playwright Tracy Letts collaborate and deliver a Texas-Fried dark comedy about your below average trailer trash family hiring a crooked officer of the law to kill their momma so they can inherit the insurance, after she steals cocaine from her son Chris. However, they cannot pay upfront. Until Killer Joe receives his payment for carrying out the deed, he demands a retainer (the younger sister) to keep him satisfied.

This film does NOT fuck around. Nor does it ever fail to keep the audience entertained. It starts off with a rainy night in the trailer park and a close up of Gina Gershon’s bush. If anything is controversial about this film, it’s that untrimmed, angry looking thing. Nevertheless, it was given an NC-17 rating for “graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.” This was apparently due to the infamous scene where Matthew McConaughey breaks Gina Gershon’s nose and forces her to perform fellatio on a fried drum stick. This KFC family dinner scene makes the family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre blush.

Killer Joe is complete with brilliant, comedic performances.  It’s okay to hate all of the characters in Killer Joe. With such unlikeable characters, it’s hard to feel sorry for any of them or care about what happens to them. It’s especially hard to care about the murdered mum in question. Chris asks, “What good is she doin anyone?” After Dottie tells Joe her story of her momma trying to suffocate her with a pillow when she was a baby, it’s hard to care about what happens to her.

2012 was a good year for Matthew McConaughey. I’m just glad he decided to take a vacation from all of the romantic comedies that only take advantage of his acting chops. First he surprised me with that amazing performance in Magic Mike. Then he delivers an immaculate performance as perhaps one of the most psychotic and creepy characters I’ve seen on film. This might have been his best performance. Something about his character, Joe Cooper, just makes me feel icky. Maybe it’s his gross affection towards Dottie and taking her virginity. It might also be his moans during the drum stick fellatio scene. “If you insult me again, I will cut your face off and wear it over my own. Do you understand?”

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I did feel a little sorry for Gina Gershon’s character. Which is odd considering how often I usually hate her characters on screen. Most notably, Showgirls. Even though she made her bed and needed to “lie in it,” I still felt horrified for Sharla. I’m on the fence with this one. She runs around town giving blow jobs and fucking over her current husband and step-kids but she is also the only parental figure young Dottie seems to have. Sharla actually takes the time to talk with Dottie about boyfriends and make-up.

Juno Temple is not an actress I am familiar with but she has a new fan. Temple brought an innocence to the bizarre character, Dottie. Dottie sleepwalks in the rain while wearing a see though nighty and she can even carry on conversations. This is likely due to the trauma’s she is faced with after having deadbeat parents. It’s also pretty obvious that her brother Chris (Emile Hirsch) has incestuous feelings for her. Gross. Chris is a confused young lad who never had a chance. Which is why he resorts to selling coke and fucking everything up. Try as I may, I have no idea why I dislike the actor Emile Hirsch. That is, with the exception of Lords of Dogtown.

Then we have the father Ansel. Thomas Haden Church is a lovable actor that never lets his audience down. From his role as the tool ‘Roach’ in Demon Knight to Jack in Sideways to the Sandman in Spider-Man 3 to the coolest teacher ever in Easy A….. The man simply has a strong presence and dominates each role. Church’s silly facial hair and piss stained pajamas complete with holes brought a lot of comedy to his role.

The film is filled with such smooth dialogue. My favorite being the first conversation between MM and Temple, “That poor, miserable bastard set his own genitals on fire just to teach his girlfriend a lesson. I guess he showed her. I wonder if she ever got over it.”

Overall, this is a redneck noir, exploiting the darker side of humanity. They just don’t make them like this anymore. I cannot imagine how powerful the play may be. The conclusion is left up to our imagination. I think the valuable lesson we learn here is, don’t sell cocaine and check the facts before having a cop moonlighting as a contract killer murder your momma. Surprises can be a bitch.

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