“When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance.”
Directed by: William Friedkin, Rated: R, 102 minutes

2012 has been the year of McConaughey, as he’s popped up in Bernie, Magic Mike, The Paper Boy, and of course, Killer Joe. Sure, for the most part, he’s played some caricature of himself, never really branching out into something too unfamiliar for him, but he’s nonetheless proven that he’s much more talented than a surfer dude with his shirt off. With Killer Joe, the darkest film on that list, McConaughey plays evil in the form of a homicidal, sex-crazed, cop-turned-killer. And while it’s not as terrifying as another favorite actor’s turn at the dark side (see Django Unchained), it’s still hard to watch. McConaughey is definitely the core of the film, and while everything swirling and twirling and bleeding around him fails to be anything too remarkable, his performance still makes Killer Joe something worth watching.

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Don’t get drawn in by those magnificent blue eyes.. he will rape you. Literally.

In the deep south in Texas, Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a young man who’s found himself owing a very bad man. Looking for any chance to make some money and repay his debt, Chris comes up with a plan to kill his mother and rake in on the insurance money. As any incapable young man of the south, Chris is far from smart enough to pull to the murder off by himself so he brings his dad, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), his step-mom  Sharla (Gina Gershon), and his “not-quite-all-there” sister, Dottie (Juno Temple) into the picture. Together, they agree to hire Joe Cooper (McConaughey) to kill Chris’ mom and agree to give him a percentage of the insurance cash as his payment. Seeing as he’s a professional killer, Joe refuses to accept such terms and says that in order for him to agree to the murder, he can take Dottie as a retainer, or collateral, until he’s paid in full. As you can imagine, everything goes to shit and things get far too complicated and messy, and Chris and his family find a dangerous man living with them in Joe, who’s kind of holding them hostage until he gets his money.

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It gets all sorts of awkward.

Killer Joe is directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist) and is a more unusual return to form for the man. He captures a combination of both dark and dangerous atmospheres while injecting the entire thing with a much needed sense of humor. Killer Joe is one of the blackest comedies I have ever seen, and if you can go into it knowing such a thing, I believe the film would be much easier to handle. I had heard plenty of things about the film, including a rather “memorable” scene featuring some fried chicken, and while I had high expectations for how far the film would push the boundaries, I never found it quite being too uncomfortable. Yes, there are some scenes that have a decent shock factor, but they seem to be more included for that factor and not the story itself. The plot is very bare, and the only performance that deserves some attention is McConaughey, who steals every scene he’s in. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of the man, and you’re left quite disappointed at the final product come the very rushed and messy conclusion. You’re kind of glad the story is over (even if it’s left open a little) and when you have a movie that’s packed with incredibly unlikable characters, you’re really not invested in, you could give a damn about what happens to any of them. Thus, when the violence hits (and it hits hard) on particular individuals, you’re more thinking “it’s about damn time”, then really shocked to see their demise.

Film Review Killer Joe

That was my exact face when the film was over.

Killer Joe is a particular kind of film that is most certainly not for everyone. I know that while it was in theaters, Killer Joe had an NC-17 rating, and while I highly doubt that the R-rated version that hit DVD is quite different than the theatrical, I’m curious if what was cut out added more substance to the film. Killer Joe doesn’t offend me because of its content, but more of its promise to offend and it’s failure to do so. Hopefully this isn’t me saying that I have a high tolerance for the gritty, disgusting, and unusual happenings of these kinds of films, but I really was hoping for more. I know Killer Joe is on a ton of movie lover’s Top 10 lists of 2012, but I really don’t see why it’s deserving of being included on such a list. While the film is far from terrible, it’s too messy to fully appreciate, and lacks any heart, depth, or substance that makes you care about it. Yes, it’s a movie about terrible, disgusting people I would never give any of my time to in real life, but in a tale so perverse, you expect some sore of saving grace. Either way, I don’t expect to find myself visiting the ‘simple’ parts of Texas anytime soon.

The Good:
Matthew McConaughey in one of his better roles, even if that role is a disgusting man that’s far from charismatic, charming, or worthy to get behind (seriously, do NOT get behind him)
The Bad:
a promise to offend (from the word of mouth of other movie goers) and a failure to do so… even if that means I’m a sick individual
The Ugly:
a messy plot that goes absolutely nowhere and by the time it gets interesting, you know exactly where it’s going

Overall: 6.0/10

Discussion Question:
With DiCaprio and McConaughey both tackling rather sadistic roles and being known more for their good guy heroes, what other actors would you like to see play a villain?

Trailer:

Written By Nick

Nick is a man obsessed with all things related to film. From the most obscure to the very popular, he’s seen it all and hopes to one day turn his obsession into a career that makes a lot of money so he can buy a monkey, a bulldog, and a full size Batman suit.


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  • From what I noticed the only major change was the changing of the angles of the chicken scene. In the NC-17 cut the scene is filmed in long shots so you see what Gina Gershon is doing.

  • Nick

    Ah, that wouldn’t have changed much lol.

  • I still want to check this out. I’d love to see Jack Black play a villain… And see Steve Zahn portray one the entire feature. I know he was a baddie in one movie, but if I spoil the title, it’d ruin the whole thing (you’ve seen it).

  • reveal the title*

  • Nick

    Yep, I know what you’re talking about lol. Good choices too. Zahn could pull something creepy for sure.

  • I don’t have a top 10 list this year. Last year’s top 10 list sucked on my site so I might just skip it from now on. If I did though, Killer Joe would have a chance of being on it. I really loved it. Also, remember that it’s being adapted from a play. And adapted quite well I think. As for the villain thing, I’ll go with Michael Cera.

    Here’s my Killer Joe review. http://www.dustyonmovies.com/2012/10/killer-joe-2011.html

  • Nick

    Michael Cera as a villain? Hmmmmm……

  • I really didn’t ‘get’ this film. The whole (anti)climax with the chicken wing and the weird rape felt gratuitous and included for pure shock factor. I felt there was a cool plot buried somewhere, wasted potential.

    As for the question, I’d like to see Steve Carrell as a villain. One Hour Photo styley.

  • Nick

    I would love that!

  • Black showed some real acting chops in Bernie, too. And he was a freaking sort of anti-hero who killed an old lady, yet he’s still loveable. I’d love to see him as a villain everyone loves to hate.

  • Nick

    Yeah. I loved Bernie.

  • Carrell is a great pick.

  • Nice review. I loved this film and it’s in my Top 5 of the year (of those titles I’ve seen so far). I thought the acting was pretty good all-around, but McConaughey was definitely the standout.

  • Nick

    Yes he is.

  • Nick

    To each his own lol. Link to your review?

  • Nick

    I’ll check it out!

  • I’m another that would include this in my top ten of the year. Granted, I’ve yet to see many things from this year but this is still likely to be a highlight for me.

  • Nick

    Maybe I just missed the point… I might re-watch it as it’s popping up on everyone’s top lists.

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