Published on August 10th, 2012 | by SARA0
Movie Review: Killer Joe
Adapted for the screen original playwright Tracy Letts, and directed by seasoned vet William Friedkin, Killer Joe is a slow burn that seeps under your skin as the camera captures the desperation of the landscape in this forgotten corner of Texas (though shot on location in Louisiana). From the cold rainy trailer park to the dusty streets littered with abandoned buildings perhaps literally on the wrong side of the railroad tracks that run though the town, Chris (Emile Hirsch) says it best when he decries all the people who sing the praises of the state, he just wants out.
When Chris finds himself in debt to the local kingpin for whom he’s been pushing drugs, he decides the best way to get out of this is to hire Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a detective with the local police department who does a little work as a hit man on the side. Chris involves his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and step-mother (Gina Gershon) in a half-baked plan to get Killer Joe to get rid of his mother (not coincidentally the same woman who stole the drugs that got Chris in this mess in the first place) for the insurance money. It becomes apparent that the only thing in this world that Chris values is his younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple). She is the picture of virtue, a young girl who isn’t quite all there, suffering in silence in a corner of the trailer absorbing all the anger surrounding her, she needs to be saved, unfortunately, she very quickly puts herself in the centre catching Joe’s eye with her beauty and eccentricities.
The rest plays out as you might expect, the plan falls apart and anything that can go wrong, will and in the worst ways possible as the violence and depravity only get more real and terrifying with strange small moments of light and humour. When we are first introduced to Killer Joe Cooper he is shown in pieces, he hand, his hat, an obscured reflection, it’s the first indication that he himself is not whole, and there is a monster underneath that smooth Texas drawl. McConaughey plays Joe with restraint, his icy stare and commanding tone of a man who has gotten away with too much, a confidence that sends shivers down your spine.
“Killer Joe” is an uneasy combination of family drama, a horror film and very pointed dark comedy; it is shot and acted beautifully, it is reminiscent of the treatment of love and violence in “Natural Born Killers”, almost to the point that I almost expected Woody Harrelson to appear on screen. The engaging performances only make the pain all the more disturbing. It’s not just the violence on its own that is hard to stomach, but the context of the violence, the malice and the entitlement that is horrific. At first I was more terrified by the laughter at what would seem to be all the wrong moments in the theatre than the actions taking place on the screen, but it was at these moments, that perhaps the most natural way to express that discomfort in a group setting is to laugh.
I highly recommend “Killer Joe” if you can you can handle the sexual and physical violence in the film, it does not hold back. It is a brilliantly shot and expertly acted film. It is terrifying, and captivating and well worth the trip to the theatre.