Saturday, August 18, 2012

Killer Joe

    Based on the play by Tracy Letts, this new film by director William Friedkin, is a Texas "trailer trash" whopper of a tale. When Chris, played by Emile Hirsch, needs six thousand dollars fast to pay off debts, he schemes to kill his mother for her insurance policy. His plan is to hire "Killer" Joe Cooper, a police detective that moonlights as a hired hiller. Matthew McConaughey plays the title character and it's one of his best roles. The rest of the cast includes Thomas Haden Church as "Ansel", the dimwitted father, Gina Gershon as his 2nd wife, Sharla, and Juno Temple as Chris's sister, Dottie.

    The filmed version of the play still plays like theater even when director William Friedkin opens up the story with more locations. I imagine that the play probably took place completely in the lone trailer where most of the film's action still takes place. It is a depraved story of drunken, cheating, dumb characters who's plans go seriously wrong. Mr. McConaughey's "killer Joe" is a scary psychopath who comes across as a quiet, polite gentleman but his twisted personality still glimmers in his eyes. He is just terrific even when he performs a very perverse and graphic scene towards the end with Ms. Gershon. And speaking of Ms. Gershon, she is fearless in the role of Sharla from the very moment we meet her. Mr. Church and Mr. Hirsch are both perfectly cast.  Ansel is an extension of "Lowell", the character Mr. Church played for years on the TV show, "Wings" (although here he prefers to be drunk or stoned most of the time). Mr. Hirsch puts the plot in motion and he is a whirlwind of stupid actions that lead to a very violent finale. And finally, we have Ms. Temple who ends up surprising everyone in a most unexpected way. 

      The film makes much fun of it's stereotyped characters but the humor is dark and so is the plot. There are a few scenes of graphic violence and female full frontal nudity that earn the film an NC-17 rating ( it probably would have gotten a "R" if not for the aforementioned graphic scene between Mr. McConaughey and Ms. Gershon). With an NC-17 rating, you can be sure this film won't be in theaters long but you have to give Mr. Friedkin and Mr. Letts credit for staying true to the material.

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