Killer Joe ★★★★

Killer Joe is the new film from William Friedkin, and its release marks the second time Friedkin has adapted a play by Tracy Letts (the first being 2006′s Bug starring Michael Shannon). Starring Matthew McConaughey as the title character, Killer Joe tells the story of a corrupt Texan detective with a murder-for-hire business on the side. When he’s hired to perform a service for a young drug dealer in need of some quick cash (played surprisingly well by Emile Hirsch), things do not go according to plan.

Killer Joe begins with Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) showing up at his father, Ansel’s (Thomas Haden Church) trailer in a heavy downpour in desperate need of cash, which of course his father does not have. They head out to local strip club, where he proceeds to throw out the idea of having his mother and Ansel’s ex-wife, Adele murdered, because “What good is she doing anybody anyway?”. Turns out, Chris knows that his mother has a $50,000 insurance claim that pays out to Chris’s sister, Dottie (Juno Temple) which would solve all of Chris’s financial troubles.

Who could kill Adele? Surely not Chris nor Ansel leading to the question “You ever hear of Joe Cooper?” Turns out Joe Cooper is a police detective that has a killer-for-hire sideline business. Everyone is in agreement, even Dottie after she overhears Chris and Ansel’s plan when they return from the strip club, so they decide to give Killer Joe a call and set-up a meeting.

Matthew McConaughey, in the midst of resurgence thanks to roles in The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie and Magic Mike, gives what is arguably his best performance. McConaughey’s cold, meticulous and domineering portrayal of Killer Joe Cooper is what drives this film. Killer Joe seems to always be in control throughout the film, except for maybe, not fully realizing how stupid Chris Smith really is. Matthew McConaughey is Killer Joe, the character and the film.

Killer Joe meets with Chris and Ansel and runs through the rules of the service that he provides, one being, a fee of $25,000 up front, no exceptions. There’s only one problem, Chris and Ansel do not have $25,000 but they will after services have been rendered. After a little thought, Killer Joe decides that he will take Dottie as a retainer until he receives his payment. Except problems arise when it comes time to cash in the insurance money. Chris reluctantly agrees, after all he and Dottie are very close, maybe closer than one would think.

Killer Joe is rated NC-17, which it rightfully deserves, and is filled with violence, nudity and sex. Everyone, but mostly Chris, seems to get their faces punched in, kicked in or, even, beaten in with a can of pumpkin. Two of McConaughey’s best scenes show his ability to play the slightly unhinged yet in-control alpha male, one involving his highly controlled deflowering of Dottie and the other being the soon-to-be notorious scene involving Sharla (Gina Gershon), Ansel’s current wife, performing fellatio on a fried chicken leg.

William Freidkin’s Killer Joe contains so much violence, nudity, sex, and black humor that it almost feels like a Jim Thompson (author of The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280) pulp novel. Featuring Matthew McConaughey’s powerhouse performance and perfectly cast with great supporting performances from Hirsch, Church, Temple and Gershon and expertly shot, Killer Joe should not be missed.

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