¨You ever hear of Joe Copper? He's a cop. A detective actually. He's got a little business on the side.¨
Director William Friedkin is mostly recognized for his work in the 70`s in The Exorcist and The French Connection. He hasn’t had another critically acclaimed movie since then although some of his movies have received a small fan base. Killer Joe is a neo-noir film with some excellent performances from the cast that critics have enjoyed and therefore put Friedkin on the map again. His film was adapted from Tracy Letts play of the same name. Letts worked with Friedkin in 2006 in the film Bug which didn’t receive too much attention. Killer Joe has made the top ten list of many critics favorite film of 2012 and I can see why. It is a very dark film, with some sadistic violence and dark humor as well. Several scenes, especially the ending, will leave you shocked and disgusted. Most critics found this film to be well crafted, but it hasn’t received as much love from audiences. As much as I wanted to like this movie, I was really disappointed with it. It was just too dark and sadistic for my taste. I don’t have a problem with violent films, I am a huge Tarantino fan, but this film is just an example of how difficult it really is to mix dark humor with violence, and although Tarantino makes it look really easy, it isn’t because Killer Joe is proof of that. I can see why many critics liked this movie, but I can`t say that I agree with them. It just wasn’t my taste. What I can agree on is the performance from the cast which is truly great, but I will get to that later.
The film takes place in a small Texas town where we meet a redneck family living in a trailer. Chris (Emile Hirsch), a drug dealer, has got in a fight with his mother after she stole his stash and now he is in a huge debt with some thugs. In order to pay off the debt he comes up with a plan that involves killing his mother and collecting her insurance money. Someone has told him that the insurance money would go to her younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple) who lives with his father and step mother. Chris shows up at his father`s house one night and shares the plan with him. Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) who`s very naïve agrees to listen to the plan. Chris tells him about the insurance money and that he has heard of a contract killer named Joe (Matthew McConaughey) who he is planning on contacting. Together, Chris and Ansel meet up with Joe who happens to be a police detective during the day and a killer at night. He agrees to kill the mother as long as they pay him 25,000 thousand dollars up front. Since Chris doesn’t have the money and can`t pay him in advance, Joe decides to take innocent Dottie as his retainer. Chris and Ansel agree as well as Ansel`s wife, Sharla (Gina Gershon). The family is completely dysfunctional and they make it really easy for you to believe they would accept and do such a thing. Well of course something goes wrong in the transaction and all hell breaks loose in this pulpy dark film.
As good as Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Emile Hirsch, and Juno Temple are in this movie they are outshined by Matthew McConaughey`s performance as this sadistic but charming detective. He is that kind of guy who on one side seems really nice and charming but on the other you know he`s dangerous and won`t want to mess with him. This is perhaps one of his strongest performances although I really preferred his work in Magic Mike. There is no doubt this has been a great year for him as he has received a lot of recognition for his work in these films. It was good to see Gina Gershon back in a strong role as well as it had been a long time since she could prove her artistic talents. Emile Hirsh and Thomas Haden Church are always great and have found them pretty much dependable in everything. Juno Temple perhaps gets her best role here as well. The performances were my favorite part of this movie, but I really can`t say I enjoyed the story. I was shocked by several scenes and really found some difficult to watch. This isn’t one of those movies I would like to watch again and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It will not be among my favorite films of the year, and I hope to forget all about it by tomorrow.