Killer Joe

Killer Joe (2011) killerjoe
Directed by: William Friedkin (The French Connection, Sorcerer, To Live and Die in LA, The Exorcist)
Written by: Tracey Letts, based on his stage play of the same name (Bug, August: Osage County)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple


Killer Joe is Joe Cooper (McConaughey) a policeman who is also a contract killer. Chris (Hirsch) is a screw up. Dottie (Temple) is Chris’ sister. Ansel (Church) is Chris and Dottie’s father and an idiot. Sharla (Gershon) is Ansel’s second wife and she’s hiding something. Chris and Ansel decide to hire Joe to kill Chris and Dottie’s mother for the insurance money. Chris and Ansel don’t have any money to pay Joe, so Joe asks to keep Dottie as a retainer. As you might guess everything goes to total shit.

Killer Joe is not a film for those easily triggered by disturbing sexuality, extreme violence and incredible acting. Based on Tracey Letts’ play by the same name Killer Joe is a true noir: a down spiraling exploration of the darkest parts of average dirt person white trash humanity. Although Joe is prone to long winded serpent tongued monologues that must be interpreted rather than taken literally, there is no sense that he is insane. In fact despite the numerous depraved or bizarre acts in this film there’s no sense that anyone is insane, they’re all just pushing forward through vicious twisted means to get what they want. Gina Gerson is incredible in this movie and it really makes me wish that she hadn’t be relegated to sex pot cheesecake for most of her career. The film’s ideas are those of the infected brain, the depraved and dark thoughts let run amuck in a trailer park hellhole parallel to our reality. The rotten roots of these ideas run deep, and they are given growth and form in characters that are chalices for the icky eternity of identities like the moron, the fuck up, the gleefully depraved, the damaged- all seething with the infinitive unblinking amorality of our lesser angels. Characters of such a nature are rarely given screen time like this.

There isn’t much to say about Killer Joe without getting into aspects that will spoil the twists and turns of persona and character found in this pitch black comedic piece. Yes I say comedic because there is a strong pumping vein of social critique leading to the gangrenous heart of this challenging film. Friedkin often pushes the boundaries of what a viewer might be willing to put up with, or even believe, and he rarely ties together all the lingering plot threads sent flying in the cataclysmic closures of his films. The third act of Killer Joe is no different. A tour-de force of bizarre displays of corruption, treachery and abuse. There is no sense of closure or reassurance at the end of Killer Joe, there’s just dark chasm to cackle into while oblivion swallows the characters of this dixie fried film.