Killer Joe ★★★★★

Part of the December Project: Film #11

William Friedkin's Killer Joe is a masterpiece of trashy Southern Gothic exploitation. Everything about this film feels dirty, from the washed digital cinematography, to the oily slick Matthew McConaughey, and the film's general story.

Killer Joe sees Friedkin teaming up again with Tracy Letts, who worked with Friedkin on the equally brilliant Bug, and like that film, this one succeeds at getting under your skin, but in a whole different kind of way.

I doubt anyone who watches Killer Joe will actually enjoy watching it. It's an unpleasant film with an unpleasant premise and some unpleasant characters. But it's ultimately the point of the film, and it does it so well it can't be denied.

2012 has been the year of Matthew McConaughey, who has finally grown out of his normal schtick and into challenging roles that involve a changed mentality and a focus on physicality. I can't see anyone else who is more perfect for the oily slick Joe Cooper, who owns the room the minute he walks into it.

The supporting cast is also excellent, with Emile Hirsch appearing straight out from the dirt to give a desperate performance, and Thomas Haden Church playing a worthless scumbag father. Also noteworthy is Gina Gershon as Church's trashy wife, and Juno Temple as the angelic yet easily corrupted Dottie.

William Friedkin chooses to keep to Letts' play structure, and as such, it often feels like a play. But this actually works to its advantage, and not only makes the setting grimier, but also more claustrophobic, and works to its advantage in moments like the film's final scene.

It is far from the most enjoyable film of the year, but I'll be damned if Killer Joe doesn't hit the mark it's aiming at. Trashy, grimy, and slick, Killer Joe is a film that shouldn't be missed.

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