The final lines of the film will have you laughing in disbelief and you’ll probably never look at fried chicken the same way again.
The first thing I did when I finished William Friedkin’s Killer Joe was take a shower. The film is up to its neck in grunge, sweat, dirt and blood. There isn’t a moment where you have time to breathe either because as soon as the film begins you’re plunged into this trailer park soap opera of lies, cheats and blood money. All the credit goes to the veteran Friedkin who takes out any shades of morality and presents some of the stupidest and most vile people you’ll ever see in a film. A friend of mine put it best. There is no emotional core to absolutely anything in the film.
Friedkin is probably one of my favorite directors to ever work in film. Everyone has seen at least one of his films; The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A. (a personal favorite), Sorcerer and Bug, just to name a few. The guy knows how to take an audience on a thrill ride and Killer Joe is no exception.
Joe is played with a frighteningly calm power by Matthew McConaughey who gives easily the performance of his career here. He has never been better in my opinion. He comes off cool and collected, but when pushed in a direction that he doesn’t prefer, McConaughey unleashes a lion’s worth of indignation. In one scene a poor unfortunate soul meets the monster that Joe is forced to become when pushed too hard. Give this guy an Oscar nomination already.
The film involves a family living in a trailer court on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas. The Smith family is poor of course and had no hint of manners present at all. Led by father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and his wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) they live with his daughter (her step) Dottie (Juno Temple). Both Temple and Gershon are very brave actors for accepting roles like these. They both go to places in this film that takes guts.
One night, Ansel’s son Chris (Emile Hirsch) comes home in the pouring rain to talk to Ansel about a pressing matter. To give you an idea of how much Sharla is aloof too much of anything, she basically laughs off Chris when he complains of her answering the door with no panties on. Ansel didn’t seem to get it either. Friedkin really drives home the point that these people seem to have no moral compass.
Chris and Ansel go to a strip club to talk about the predicament he is in. Chris is a terrible gambler and is in to a local drug dealer for some money he owes. If he doesn’t pay soon they will kill him. A little birdy tells Chris that his mother (not Sharla) has a life insurance policy of $50,000 if anything were to happen to her. Chris was also told about a crooked cop who moonlights as killer for hire if the price is right. This killer is played by McConaughey.
Chris and Ansel then go to a strip club to talk about the predicament he is in. It turns out Chris is terrible with money and owes his scumbag boss a lot of it. If he doesn’t pay soon he will be killed. A little birdy tells Chris that his biological mother has a life insurance policy of $50,000 if anything were to happen to her. Chris was also told about a crooked cop who moonlights as killer for hire if the price is right. This killer is played by McConaughey.
Chris sets up a meeting with Joe about the deal to kill his mother. When Joe says his pay is $25,000 up front no questions, Chris tells him he can’t pay it. Joe starts to walk out but notices young Dottie playing in the street. He inquires about her being his “retainer” in lieu of the $25,000 Chris cannot come up with. They agree. This leads to an extremely tense scene of seduction involving Joe and Dottie in the family’s trailer home that has to be seen to be believed. It’s a very edgy scene that could cause some people to rethink the film they are watching.
The rest of the film I will not reveal as Friedkin builds his entire plot to an utterly outstanding, and very outlandish, final 30 minutes. As I mentioned earlier, do not go searching for a moral center in this film. It does not exist. There is not one redeeming character on display here. Friedkin bathes you in the dirt and filth these people live in on a daily basis.
Make no mistake about Killer Joe. The film is not all serious business. In fact, the film is brutally funny at times. Especially the final 15 minutes of the film which will have some people cheering at Friedkin’s audacity at showing a ferocious McConaughey making a complete meal of the Smith family in their home. The final lines of the film will have you laughing in disbelief and you’ll probably never look at fried chicken the same way again. Killer Joe is one of the best (if not dirtiest) film going experiences I’ve had this year.