110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Rated NC-17 for graphic violence, strong sexual imagery, strong language and drug use
By James Miller
posted Aug 31, 2012 - 2:49:05pm
With Killer Joe, director William Friedkin (The French Connection, Exorcist) partners with Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy Letts to adapt Letts’ earliest play for the screen. That collaboration plays to the uninitiated like a production of The Glass Menagerie reimagined by David Lynch.
Killer Joe is black comedy at its least sentimental, artfully shot and stylishly superficial. Its volatile caricatures thrash about but go nowhere, do not grow, but wilt. We’d be let off easy were it a satire, but this twisted romp punches straight ahead, dead set on abyss.
Out a serious load of cash and in debt to some violent types, twenty-something Chris (Emile Hirsch) bursts into his father Ansel’s (Thomas Haden Church) trailer one stormy night with a half-baked plan to murder his mother for her insurance money. After some polite resistance, Ansel agrees to help Chris seek out a local hit man nicknamed Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) to do the deed. The pair hit a roadblock when they haven’t got the money to pay Joe, but the killer takes a shine to Chris’s never-been-kissed younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple) and agrees to take her as a loan in advance of the cash. Violence, brutality and surrealism ensue.
Killer Joe’s small cast impresses. McConaughey waxes sympathetic with his gentlemanly if robotic delivery. His forcefulness grows from unsettling as to induce nervous laughter unto something sinister, chaotic and terrifying. He sells the film. Hirsh counterbalances that deliberateness with Chris, whose explosive, stubborn nature fumbles for his own naïveté. As stepmom Sharla, Gina Gershon provides the most nearly human character; she’s crass and manipulative, but capable of pain and humiliation. By contrast, Temple’s Dottie is otherworldly, her mental illness a taboo of the family’s ongoing drama. And centric to these extremes, Church’s Ansel anchors the film. His unwillingness to act, his curt replies, stone-faced and all, become the sincerest of reactions. Faced with such madness, there is no best response. The viewer immediately understands that paralysis.
Popcorn represents how fun a film is to watch—how funny it is, how exciting the special effects are, and how enjoyable the story is on repeated viewings. The perfect popcorn movie would be one that never got stale regardless of how many times you’ve seen it.
Stars & Popcorn grade: 4 stars, 2 popcorn.
— Miller is a writer and editor at Stars & Popcorn. He has a master's degree in Performance Studies and Criticism from New York University and a dry sense of humor.
Sponsored by Liebe Entertainment Group, Marketplace 8. Click here to see showtimes for Killer Joe
James M. Miller — James M. Miller is a writer and editor at Stars and Popcorn. His love of film is mostly Platonic, occasionally phenomenological. He has a master's degree in Performance Studies & Criticism from New York University and a dry sense of humor.
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