Killer Joe

Killer Joe / LD Entertainment

Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: Tracy Letts

Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple


The Review

William Friedkin has quite the interesting career. He is mostly known for famous features such as, The ExorcistThe French ConnectionTo Live and Die in L.A., and much more. However, his present work has greater artistic fascination than most filmmakers with an industry reputation like his. The latest entry Killer Joe continues to push the director’s limits into new creative ideas that will shock and challenge the viewer every frame. Not sincAmerican Psycho has a film had such a brutally dark sense of humor.

Killer Joe involves a drug dealer named Chris who falls into debt with the wrong people. He finds out from his mother’s boyfriend that if she dies, his sister Dottie will be the beneficiary of $50,000.  With his pressing financial situation, Chris develops a plan among his family to have her killed by a hitman known as Killer Joe. However, Joe is a dangerous man with strong held work principals. He demands an advancement before any job will be completed. Chris and his family explain the advancement cannot be delivered unless the mother dies. Joe then offers a collateral fee… One night of pleasure with  Chris’s sister Dottie. What results is a spiral of chaos that forces the family to realize the full intense nature that is Killer Joe.

This is Friedkin’s second film adaptation in the last five years that originated from a stage play. His style fits these types of projects well because of the claustrophobic tone he executes in his scenes. Just like his 2006 film Bug, most of the narrative confines itself  to one or two locations. Sometimes it strays into other settings but it’s very rare throughout the story. The film’s locations remains tight so when the tension arises there is an unsettling aura of  no escape. With this type of decision-making, Friedkin has always been a master of making his audience uncomfortable yet engaged.

What will most likely have the biggest impact on viewers is the extreme performance delivered by Matthew McConaughey as the vicious Killer Joe Cooper. His performance is just as ferocious in delivery as Christian Bale’s in American Psycho. Some of his actions will either disgust you or have you laughing. Other times, it may conflict you on how you should react at all. One thing is for sure though, McConaughey can no longer be labeled as a  single note actor. Forget about the guy from The Wedding Planner because that man has left the building. This is the most twisted role he has ever attempted. In fact, this  a career game change on the level of John Travolta’s departure in Pulp Fiction.

If I had any real issue with Killer Joe, it might have been the useless amount of full fledge nudity in the film. This is supposably a trashy section of Texas, and being from the state I have zero knowledge of any town where people answer their doors without pants or underwear. The writing conveys the people in Texas as having the intelligence level of tin foil. Don’t get me wrong, there is a select number of people down here that should not have made it past the third grade. Still, I just believe this is another example of a writer who had little knowledge of the location he was scripting. Regardless of this nitpick, I still enjoyed the film.

Special Features

The Killer Joe DVD has some unique bonus content that is worth viewing. The DVD includes a thirty minute featurette that takes you behind the making of this controversial film. Also included is an extremely fascinating recording of the Q & A from the premiere at SXSW, as well as an intro from William Friedkin. This is one of my favorite additions because you see the reactions from the very first screening in Austin. Finally, the studio attached the original “white trash” red-band trailer for the film.  The one thing I wish the DVD incorporated was a director’s commentary from Friedkin himself. For me, this is a huge negative because I LOVE hearing director’s commentary on film’s of this nature. Even though I wish it had more bonus content, the film alone makes this worth a buy.

Bottom line, if you have a high tolerance for controversial indie-films then I highly recommend checking out Killer Joe on DVD.