Plot – When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance – Killer Joe.
Director – William Friedkin
Released – 2011
Normally directors tend to mellow with age, not taking the risks they took when first starting off, but when it comes to William Friedkin, it’s clear to see that just like when he gave us The French Connection and The Exorcist pushing boundaries is still top of his agenda and Killer Joe is testament to that, adapting Tracy Letts play into a crime-noir that will certainly shock some people.
Killer Joe is needless to say, one of the darkest and definitely the most perverted films I’ve seen for a while. With the subject-matter and plot successfully finding ways to get under your skin and make you uncomfortable, Friedkin made sure that with this film, joy is hard to come by and the foreboding atmosphere never gives the characters or audience a chance to relax, even turning KFC into something dark and corrupted.
Although there have been a couple of stinkers (Fool’s Gold, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), McConaughey, for the most part, has been pretty consistent in his quality and he is no different. He is mesmerising as Joe, the corrupt and murderous cop, who hides his deep-seated sexual perversions behind a cool and under-control demeanour. McConaughey was perfect for this role, requiring an actor with an abundance of charisma and the ability to give off a menacing and unpredictable presence, capable of dark things.
All that said, It’s not McConaughey who steals that show, but Temple, who delivers a complex and nuanced performance as Dottie, the closest thing to innocence we get in Killer Joe. With the plenty of straightforward, gripping and clever dialogue, Dottie spends most of the film being manipulated by her brother, father, step-mother and even Joe, she does what she needs to survive and in the end, is the only redeemable character.
Friedkin clearly took inspiration from the stage-play when making Killer Joe, using the minimal number of locations and the claustrophobic nature to great effect, building up the tension and filled with symbolism and foreshadowing, while his and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s (The Lion King) eye for a great shot and the noir feel help to make this a beautiful piece of cinema, filled dark blues and neons, each shot feels like a work of art.
Killer Joe is a film that proves Friedkin hasn’t lost desire to try new things and push the boundaries, producing a movie that some will find shocking and hard to watch, or at the very least extremely twisted, but to me, the story is actually a study of humans darker inclinations and how quickly a group will kill if it’s to their advantage and how fast people will turn on each other once the deed is done.