(director: William Friedkin; screenwriter: Tracy Letts/based on the play “Killer Joe” by Tracy Letts; cinematographer: Caleb Deschanel; editor: Darrin Navarro; music: Tyler Bates; cast: Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe Cooper), Emile Hirsch (Chris Smith), Gina Gershon (Sharla Smith), Juno Temple (Dottie Smith), Thomas Haden Church (Ansel Smith), Marc Macaulay (Digger), Danny Epper (G-Man); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NC-17; producers: Nicolas Chartier/ Scott Einbinder; Lionsgate; 2011)
“As sordid and vile as possible.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A sadistic exploitation over the top black comedy family drama about a severely dysfunctional white trash trailer-park Texas family, that can make your skin crawl even if it makes you laugh at the weird antics of the misfits. It’s based on Tracy Letts’ 1993 play and directed by William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”/”Cruising”/”The French Connection”) with an inexorable eye on making it as sordid and vile as possible, leaving every character as wretchedly craven. Friedkin also directed Letts’ play Bug.
During an evening rain storm in Dallas, worthless 22-year-old drug dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) awakens his dumb mechanic father, Ansel Smith (Thomas Haden Church), and his unfaithful waitress second wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) and Ansel’s 12-year-old daughter Dottie (Juno Temple), living with him because Ansel’s ex-wife Adele tried killing her. Chris has just been tossed from Adele’s home, after she stole his blow worth $10,000. The local king pin drug dealer Digger (Marc Macaulay) threatens physical harm if he doesn’t get the drug money owed him immediately. Chris’s scheme to get out of debt is to hire recommended moonlighter hit man Dallas detective Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother Adele for her $50,000 life-insurance policy and pay the killer $25,000 for the contract killing before splitting the remaining insurance money. Chris wants dad to advance him the money to pay off the hit man and get in on the split. When father and son can’t come up with Killer Joe’s up front total payment, the charming but menacing cop takes the virgin Dottie as a retainer and deflowers her in her trailer home with the reluctant approval of her family. The oily smooth menacing cop blows up Adele in her car, making it look like an accidental death.Then things get even more bizarre, but are strangely believable.
Just when you think things couldn’t get sleazier, the last part tops the first part in sleaze and violence.
It’s a damning bad taste film noir that is erotically charged, gory and played out to see how far the foul characters are willing to go as sicko monsters while still retaining some modicum of humanity. The pleasures in viewing such trashy venality is that it’s so well-acted and executed it becomes a like it or hate it impactful art film treasure for how to do the the low-life rednecks without backing down to making them Hollywood acceptable.
REVIEWED ON 1/18/2013 GRADE: A-