Killer Joe (2011)
Low-life drug dealer Chris Smith has bad debts and convinces his family to have their mother killed, in order to obtain the hefty life-insurance money. The family enlist the help of the curious ‘Killer Joe Cooper’ who demands the virginal younger sister, Dottie, as collateral…….
In “Killer Joe”, Friedkin’s daring movie-making turns to a trailer-trash sitcom about a cop who moonlights as a hired killer. The end result is a visceral blend of savage sexuality and violent comedy.
It’s not often that modern audiences can be made to feel awkward and even rarer, that they are truly shocked. But, Friedkin pulls it off with the help of a prodigious cast. The film looks raw and feels defiled. If ever a film was ‘shower-inducing’ then this is it; but the realism that this adds to proceedings is difficult to overplay.
McConaughey monopolizes parts of the movie as “Killer Joe”, a character who is as alluring and magnetic as he is repellent. There was always a risk of McConaughey over-shadowing the film and ‘eating the scenery’ but importantly, McConaughey does not subjugate the other players. Thomas Haden Church as the craggy and sullen father figure is captivating whilst audiences cannot fail to be enamoured by Juno Temple as the stunningly beautiful trophy-daughter “Dottie”. Emile Hirsch gives a memorable performance as the imprudent “Chris”, a man who continually finds himself making poor life-decisions.
In general, the contempt for human life and ordinary morality displayed by this disparate group of characters is astonishing. For much of the movie, we are treated to a sort of strange soap-opera surrounding these individuals and their ‘live-in’ hitman; with their frazzled moral compasses serving as the offbeat subject matter.
A crazily comic script added to the lashings of acid humour layered all over the film cannot prevent at least 2 scenes from being almost impossible to watch; and it’s a real struggle to keep your eyes on the screen without looking away. These scenes are not notable for excessive violence but involve McConaughey’s unrivalled sexual decadence and enticing delivery. Nevertheless, when the violence does come, there is no holding back – it’s unapologetic, hard-hitting and in line with the movie’s gritty realism, leaves you emotionally blanched.
If I have any complaints about “Killer Joe”, it’s that it is actually too short. Running at just over 100 minutes, you want to see more and more of the characters but instead the film races towards histrionics of farcical proportions in a finale which is melodramatically mind-blowing.
Friedkin has always pushed the boundaries of cinema in a career which has been spattered with some of the greatest films ever made (“The Exorcist”, “The French Connection”) and it’s endearing to see that even in an era where audiences are familiar with some of the most violent and disturbing images imaginable; he still retains the power to shock, amuse and excite. A bold and unique film indeed.
Hotdog rating: 9/10