Killer Joe

  • Year:2011
  • Director:William Friedkin
  • Cast:Gina Gershon , Emile Hirsch , Thomas Haden Church , Matthew McConaughey , Juno Temple
  • Release Date:September 06, 2012
  • Distributor:Roadshow
  • Running time:102 minutes
  • Film Worth:$17.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

A daringly impressive and darkly funny work, which sees its director William Friedkin return to the audacious spirit of his early films.

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It is often difficult to reconcile the modern William Friedkin with ‘Hurricane’ Billy, the fiery auteur who reinvented several genres with his angry, authentic vision. With a few exceptions, his post-seventies work is exemplified by lousy cash-grabs or frustrating incompetence. It is reassuring, then, to note that Killer Joe returns The French Connection director to bold, confronting territory; this black comedy crackles with the daring, go-for-broke spirit of early Friedkin. 

Based on the play by Tracy Letts (who also wrote the script), Killer Joe stars Emile Hirsch as Chris, a weasel in trouble with a Texan mob boss. Learning that his mother has life insurance, he hires Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill her. With no money to offer Joe, the part-time killer and full-time cop offers Chris a deal: his sister Dottie (Juno Temple) will act as a retainer until the insurance money comes through.

You could argue that the film never entirely masks its theatrical origins, and you’d be right. Recalling Robert Altman’s eighties efforts, Friedkin blocks many scenes in actor-friendly two shots, a theatrical approach that is occasionally tempered with the more abstract direction of the Joe scenes. However, it is difficult to fault the director: with a script so rich in dramatic irony and absurd humour, Friedkin just needs to point the camera and yell “action”.

Friedkin deserves credit for his eclectic casting choices, though. McConaughey never shows his technique, navigating Joe’s sweet and sour personality with minimal effort. Thomas Haden Church gets the majority of laughs with his droll reading of Chris’ father and Gina Gershon handles the challenging role of Chris’ stepmother with versatility. Hirsch is less interesting, partly because of the snivelling role and partly because of his overly-expressive reading, which is all furrowed eyebrows. 

Rich in subtext and absurd laughs, Killer Joe is go-for-broke filmmaking that refuses to give its characters and viewers easy solutions.

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