There is a certain expectation when viewing a film that youíre anticipating. Will the film exceed expectations? Will the film fall flat on its face? There are so many variables that could be held into account of what goes into that very first viewing of that anticipated film, but William Friedkinís Killer Joe, based off a play by Tracy Letts, doesnít care what youíre expecting, but rather on a mission to turn those expectations completely upside on your head, and deliver a film that brims with the darkest of film noir, and the blackest of black comedy.
The insanity of Killer Joe isnít very outright at first, but slowly, and surely shows the hand to the audience as the 102 minutes go by. Friedkin certainly keeps the audience aware that all the main characters are white trash deadbeats, but allows enough heart and personality to seep through each of them, thanks to the amazing actors on display. The story is bleak to its core, with a father-son duo (Emile Hirsch and Thomas Haden Church) deciding to knock off their ex-wife/mother, in order to collect her life insurance, by hiring a detective (Matthew McConaughey) that also moonlights as a hired killer. But, with all this grungy actions and bleakness, Friedkin is certainly willing to take the filmís tone and shake it up whenever he feels like it.
On one hand, there is desperation and surprisingly poignant monologue/dialogues between the characters. On the other hand, thereís that small moment that breaks the dingy tension with an unexpected laugh. The whole scenario is just so insane that itís sort of ingenious in its own twisted way. The first and second act has itís moments of insanity, but itís surely the final act where the director slapped his hands together, knowing that heís about to turn his audience on their head. At that point, all bets are off.
But is Killer Joe a hearty film recommendation for all involved with the joy of cinema? That, my fellow reader, is a quandary indeed. This is a film that pulls no punches, and anything is up for grabs in its dark plot. Itís certainly a film that, in the end, I really respect for itís no-holds-barred tenacity, but everybodyís viewing can be schizophrenic at best. Some will detest the filmís tone, while others will revel in it. In the end, thatís what cinema ultimately comes down to, a need to challenge viewers in storytelling and filmmaking.
For this reviewer, Killer Joe is a bit of a revelation. Itís certainly nothing Iíve seen before, and itís certainly a solid crime story with itís own dark, black, comedic edge. Ultimately, itís all depends on if you are willing to take a plunge in the dark recess of director William Friedkinís adaptation of this insane play.
But if itís not your cup of tea, donít say I didnít warn youÖI did. A lot.