Today I decided to check out the movie that most would say kicked off the McConaissance; Killer Joe. Also directed by the great William Friedkin, (The Exorcist, The French Connection) Killer Joe is one hell of a weird southern crime movie. Judging by those two previously mentioned movies of his, you wouldn’t think after seeing this one that he’d played any part in making it, but it just goes to show how versatile of a director he is. Always sticking to the story at hand, almost to a fault, with memorable scenes that are so tense, few directors ever come close. Killer Joe is most comparable to a movie by the Coen brothers; filled with wacky, oddball characters that are brought to life by wonderful performances, not the least of which is Matthew McConaughey who totally ‘kills’ it (sorry) as police officer and part-time hitman Joe Cooper.
The story begins with a troubled young man named Chris (Emile Hirsch) who runs back to his folks’ trailer park to hide from men that he owes money to. His father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) was recently re-married to Sharla (Gina Gershon) and Chris’ sister Dottie (Juno Temple) also lives with them in the trailer. After hatching a plan to pay a hitman to kill Chris’ mom/Ansel’s ex-wife for the insurance payout, Joe Cooper gets involved. Having no money to give Joe up front, Chris and Ansel decide to give him a ‘retainer’ in the form of Dottie, who he has fallen for in the process (despite her being barely legal, if she even is). As expected with a story like this, not very much goes according to plan, and without spoiling anything, things go south VERY quickly. Ultimately, (and I rarely feel this way about movies) the ending is absolutely perfect, in a weird and twisted way that fits the odd tone of the movie just right.
McConaughey absolutely kills it in this movie, but especially in the last 15 minutes or so, when his character becomes completely unhinged and practically loses his mind. It’s a really interesting turn for McConaughey, who at his darkest (that I can recall) played Rust Cole on ‘True Detective’. After seeing him destroy it in this movie, I really hope he’s cast as more villains down the line. Seeing him lose himself in a role like this was incredible, and I hope we see more of it in the future. The rest of the cast is equally great, with Haden Church underplaying Ansel with a passive disregard for all the crazy shit happening around him. Hirsch, I guess you could say, is the ‘protagonist’, although the movie jumps around to focus on other characters almost equally. He’s great as the goofy, slacker kid who gets way more than he bargained for with Joe. Juno Temple, (whose name I’ve heard around a lot, but not sure if I’ve ever seen onscreen) is hilarious as the carefree, innocent Dottie.
I absolutely love movies like this. Stupid people getting way, way too in over their heads to try and get an unfair advantage in life, and/or out of a bad situation that they got themselves into in the first place. It’s one of the reasons why the Coen brothers are some of my favorite directors, as Killer Joe shares more than a passing resemblance to movies like ‘Fargo’ or ‘Burn After Reading’. What Killer Joe does, possibly even better than the Coen brothers at times, is absolutely shock you with its brutality. One scene at the end is going to be stuck in my head for a long, long time. It involves Sharla, Ansel, a very, very pissed off Joe Cooper, and a chicken leg (yep, seriously).
So that’s going to put a bow on Killer Joe, thanks for reading the review! Like I said last time, I’m going to keep up the routine of getting one of these out every Wednesday and Sunday, so keep your eyes peeled for them. The next write-up is going to be over Richard Ayoade’s THE DOUBLE, which I was dying to see earlier this year, and then kind of totally forgot about until the other day, when I saw it was released. He did the incredible ‘Submarine’, which is on Netflix and I highly recommend. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!