Killer Joe (2012)
Director: William Friedkin
Some young dude (Emile Hirsh) hires a shady cop (Matthew McConaughey), who happens to moonlight as a hitman, to whack his bitch of a momma, so he, his dad (Thomas Haden Church) and his dad's hoe wife (Gina Gershon) can collect on her life insurance policy. Shit doesn't go as planned...
There was construction UNDER my office with so much freaking jack-hammering that I couldn't hear myself think, couldn't make business calls, couldn't whack off in peace and couldn't write. So before I lost my mind and went to drop kick one of the city workers; I hopped on my bike, got out of there and went to see KILLER JOE. And am happy that I did, cause I came out of that movie theater with a big smile carved on my Kentucky Fried face – all was well in the world again. Thanks Joe!
KILLER JOE was of course directed by the great William Friedkin, who in my opinion owned the 70's and 80's (The French Connection, The Exorcist, Sorcerer), slipped in the 90's (Jade, The Guardian) and then hopped back on the right track in the 2K era (with to some degree The Hunted and more so via Bug). And now Friedkin continues his good streak of superior filmmaking with KILLER JOE (based on the play by Tracy Letts who also wrote the play Bug which Friedkin's film was based on.) I had a riot with this sick puppy! It definitely appealed to my dark and twisted side as I literally laughed out loud many o times at the excessively violent and out of line scenarios that were tossed my way. And that's one of the things I so loved about KILLER JOE, it embraced its deprave side and made me an accomplice to it. For example, I was cheering when a baddie got his/her nose popped into a gush of exploding blood or I got turned when an odd and somewhat sleazy deflowering scene went down; KILLER JOE had no shame and I had no shame in enjoying its shamelessness, so we both got along famously. Visually; even though it was an adaptation of a play, Friedkin kept it energetic by way of his kinetic visual style that added mucho oomph to the proceedings (DOP Caleb Deschanel's striking lighting and editor Darrin Navarro's efficient cutting also helped). The dialogue was pretty damn groovy as well, a mix of Tarantino hipness (not as heavy handed as QT though) meets Lynch humor/weirdness...result I totally fell in lust with it. That dialogue was so tight, I wanted to bang it!
With all that, it was the actors and the novel characterizations of their characters that kept me hooked in deep. Emile Hirsch was ideal as the cock sure yet not so bright protagonist, Juno Temple gave an appealing show and stole many scenes as the brutally honest woman-child (Oscar?), Gina Gershon was white trash goodness incarnated and I applauded her fearless performance while Thomas Haden Church was affable as the dumb-dumb yet well meaning father. With that; this was Matthew McConaughey's show as as Killer Joe Cooper (Again... Oscar?). Bravo McConaughey! Bravo for stepping out of that rom-com cash-cow comfort zone you wound up in and finally taking a chance with a role that is against type. The last time McConaughey traveled that road was at the beginning of his career with that godawful TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION movie (he was the best thing in it). He's kind of come full circle here with KILLER JOE. He handled the role in a courageous and odd ball fashion yet the character came off as rational within the his own moral code. It was all in his deep and dark eyes and his often economic body language; a freaking eerie and unpredictable performance but snake like charming at the same time. Now that I think of it, even though Joe is supposed to be the “bad guy”; at least he had values – which is more than I could say for the self centered, back-stabbing and incompetent people that hired him. So yeah, it was awesome to see McConaughey sink his teeth into a role of this ilk again and I hope this marks a new direction for his career; I mean he has enough money by now – stop with the rom-coms and back to challenging yourself as an actor you go!
Tag to that a by the throat attitude towards violence and sexuality that so appealed to me, a winning soundtrack of old school rock/blues and one particular scene having to do with a piece of Fried chicken that stayed with me hours after the thing had ended and you get a keeper, and definitely one of my favorite movies of the year thus far. So why not a perfect score? Well two crucial things bothered me about the film. 1- The bulk of the narrative built up a scenario and instead of resolving it in its last act, it did a u-turn, went into a warped direction and then rolled its credits. I didn't mind the new direction, I did mind that I had invested into a story that wasn't fully wrapped up at the end. 2- To make matters worse, it capped off with an open ended finale. For some movies it works (like Inception) for this one; I NEEDED a clear resolution dammit, and I didn't get it.
On the whole though; KILLER JOE was the type of American films that Americans don't do anymore; one with guts, intelligence and a knack at pushing, burning and shoving that envelope up that pie-hole! Good on you Friedkin; good on you for showcasing a brashness that is usually associated with young filmmakers not veterans who have already proven themselves. Friedkin still has the touch! KILLER JOE was a KILLER MOVIE! See it!
We get a stabbing, vicious and bloody beatings, a face bashed in with a can, gun shot wounds and then there's that thing with that chicken leg, not gore, but close enough... brrr...
T & A
We get all kinds of fake titties in a strip club scene, Gina Gershon's ass/bush and Juno Temple's tits and bush (no hair clippers on that set). The ladies and gay dudes, get McConaughey's ass...
KILLER JOE was a balls to the wall, no bull, remorselessly violent and sexually charged ride that simply did not give a f*ck! And I respected it for it. Filled with razor dialogue, outstanding performances (Gershon, McConaughey and Temple stood out for me) and fly visuals, I couldn't get enough! Yeah I was a tad let down by the ending in the sense that it didn't fully wrap up its storyline and left me dangling with its open-ended final frames – but hey I'll always have that chicken leg scene to hold close to my heart, so at least it left me on a finger licking good note. You miss the days when the US of A made movies with edge? KILLER JOE is for you!
The chicken scene is the reason the MPAA gave the film an NC-17 in the USA. Here in Quebec, the film is rated 16 and over, in its uncut form.
Juno Temple got a copy of the script. She put herself on tape with her 10-year-old brother reading for Joe and they emailed the audition to Friedkin. He cast her after that
Temple said this about her experience: “I’d do the whole movie again tomorrow if they asked me to. I had an extraordinary time. Billy (Friedkin) is someone I trust with all my heart. So when you aren’t afraid, you become fearless and you just go for it,”