Running Length: 103 minutes
Cast: Matthew McConaughy, Gina Gershon, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple
Director: William Friedkin
Screenplay: Tracy Letts
Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel
It’s odd that a film with not a single redeeming character should be so watchable. Yet Killer Joe is a fun, barmy ride.
Chris is in trouble. His mother stole his last two grams of coke before he could sell it and now Trigger wants his money. Chris’s family –dopey, drunk Ansel and sex-on-legs step-mom, Sharla – can’t help. But Chris knows his mother has a 50K life insurance policy, and the beneficiary is his little sister Dottie.
So Ansel and Chris call upon the services of Killer Joe, a Dallas police force detective who supplements his income with contract killing on the side. But Joe wants a 25K payment upfront and Chris and Ansel won’t have any cash until after the insurance policy is cashed. It seems like the situation is hopeless until Joe catches a glimpse of Dottie and suggests maybe she’d do as a retainer.
The most uncomfortable scenes are the ones where Chris and Ansel set up a date for Dottie and Joe. Earlier in the film Chris expressed concern for Dottie because Sharla parades around the house butt-naked, yet he seems to have no qualms about setting her up with a man many years her senior (I think it was mentioned that Dottie was 12, but she looks more like 18, albeit a young 18….)
From here things get more twisted and more sordid by turns. The climactic scene includes a vomit-inducing use of KFC that will no doubt have the Colonel spinning in his grave.
Matthew McConaughy gives what is probably his best performance to date as Joe, a cold-hearted killer who has the manners and decorum of a true southern gentleman. You could see this role as the diametric opposite to the sheriff he plays in Bernie.
While I think the Coen brothers have covered the bumbling crime caper far better, I enjoyed Killer Joe. It made me uncomfortable and it made me laugh and it made me cringe and cover my eyes.