I have been waiting to see this movie for months, so you can imagine the twang of concern I felt putting it in my Xbox for the first time to watch it. What if it didn’t reach my high expectations? That would mean months of waiting were for nothing. Killer Joe has not only met all of my expectations, but surpassed them. This film is a brutal, unforgiving, and darkly comic ride into crime and suspenseful insanity that would make Hitchcock proud.
Chris (Emile Hirsch) owes gangster Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay) a lot of money. He soon learns that his mother has a $50,000 life insurance policy and that there is a man named “Killer” Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a cop/killer, who will get the job done for a fee. Chris’ entire family is on board for the whole idea, but an unexpected complication soon surfaces causing the family to clash heads harder than they have before. Not only that, but Joe wants his money and he will do anything to get it.
I will never ever make fun of Matthew McConaughey ever again after seeing Killer Joe. I never thought he was a bad actor, but this is the movie that really has convinced me that with the right direction, he can be great. William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist and The French Connection, does have a great track record after all. The rest of the cast is great, too. Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon totally sell their roles and Emile Hirsch makes it very east to dislike his character. Special kudos goes to Juno Temple, who plays Chris’ sister for sale, in a role that could not have been easy.
This film was unfortunately met with a lot of controversy before its release concerning the rating. The MPAA were really pushing Friedkin to edit the final product to bump it down from an NC-17 to an R rating. To paraphrase Friedkin, he said that if he cut anything out, he would be destroying it and not saving it. I can absolutely attest to what he is saying. While I was watching the movie, I could see what they would want to cut out so it could be shown in more accessible theaters, but if anything was cut than a lot of the intensity would be missing. The first hour or so of this movie is a very slow build up to an unbelievably grotesque climax that is well worth the wait.
That being said, this is not a movie for the feint of heart or the weak of stomach. It is very violent and relishes in it. Killer Joe isn’t just a physically disturbing movie, but a mentally disturbing movie which evens out quite nicely. To be honest, some of the mental aspects of the movie are a lot more upsetting than the physical, even though when characters get their asses kicked in the movie, it isn’t really easy to watch.
Killer Joe is a wonderfully suspenseful film with loads of detestable characters and stretched out scenes of dialogue that slowly drag the viewer along. These scenes really accentuate the stage roots of the movie. The first time I watched it, I watched it again two hours later because it was just that good. Use caution, but definitely check out Killer Joe.