Matt Adcock’s film review: Killer Joe

Love, lust, loyalty, treachery, innocence, profanity, greed, revenge, family...just another day in the Deep South.

Monday, 2nd July 2012, 7:06 am

When 22-year-old smalltime trailer-trash drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) finds himself in debt to a very nasty drug lord, he hatches a desperate plan to try and cash in on his mother’s $50,000 life insurance policy.

Of course it isn’t quite a simple as it sounds and the contracted hit-man ‘Killer’ Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey playing brilliantly against his nice-guy type), might just tear the dysfunctional family apart when he takes a sinister liking Chris’s sister Dottie (Juno Temple).

Joe is the creepiest, craziest, crooked cop to hit the screen in some time – highly charismatic and entirely morally dubious, he demands Dottie as a ‘retainer’ for his services until Chris can pay him from the insurance payout.

The film is based on a provocative black comedy by Tracy Letts, and director William ‘The Exorcist’ Friedkin doesn’t hold back in bringing the shockingly twisted plot to throbbing gothic noir cinematic life.

Killer Joe is a deep-fried red-neck-em-up that explores the thin line between good and evil and exposes the possibility of evil in all of us.

And just when the tension is a boiling point it unloads a metaphysical shotgun blast of misogynistic bad-taste, which is likely to challenge even the most open-minded viewer. I don’t want to spoil anything for you but let’s just say that it might be a while before you order a KFC again…

But if you’re a fan of crackling, messed up neo-noir thrillers like The Killer Inside Me or Blood Simple then Killer Joe will be right up your hard-boiled street.

And while ‘Joe’ doesn’t have the same expansive scope – due to it originally being a play – it adds a deep vein of very dark comedy that is likely to have you laughing when you’re not recoiling in shock.

All whole the cast go about the sordid business with gusto – McConaughey is fantastic as the slimy titular character and he is matched all the way by a gutsy Lolita-ish performance from Temple. Some of the best lines though come from Chris’s dim-witted father Ansel (Thomas Haden-Church) – pick of the bunch being when ask if he was aware of his wife’s plan to rip him off. He replies “I’m never aware!”

Killer Joe is a hard film to completely recommend as it goes to very ‘wrong’ places but it will certainly make you think.