Film Talk – Killer Joe (2011)

Plot (Taken from IMDB): 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.

Black Hole Comedy

I watched Killer Joe on Monday night and I feel like I’m still recovering, and I mean that in a good way. Ordinarily I would say that this film is a black comedy, but William Friedken himself described it as a black hole comedy, which is certainly a good description. At the centre of this black hole is Matthew McConaughey, who genuinely gives one of my favourite performances of the last few years.

He plays the Joe of the title and is a detective with a sideline in murder. Pay him his fee and he’ll despatch whoever it is you need gotten rid off. Now, Joe understandably likes to see some money up front before he commences his work which is something that Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) cannot provide because he has no money until his mother’s insurance policy pays out.

Moral Outrage

 

One thing to mention here is that this whole plan is out in the open and been discussed with his dad and stepmum. Even his kid sister Dottie (Juno Temple) inadvertently finds out and yet nobody raises any objections or moral outrage and is quite happy to go along with the plan, and they are all looking forward to their cut of the money.

Joe says that if there’s no money up front, that’ll he take Dottie as a ‘retainer’ until he is paid. It’s clear what his intentions are apart from using her as an insurance policy but again, it is agreed to without too much fuss.

It is at this point that things get interesting, as Dottie is the one bastion of innocence, purity and hope amongst a mess of morally bankrupt characters. It is indicative of the world we are in that even though Dottie wants to see the plan work out, after we find out why she isn’t too bothered about what is going to happen to her mother, that we side with her. It is a pitch black existence for all the characters involved but pitched perfectly so that it is both humorous and serious in equal measure and then finally shocking.

Quiet Menace

McConaughey is full of quiet menace and as we peel back the layers of his character through the juxtapositions of his interactions with Dottie and everybody else, it quickly becomes apparent that the Smith family have made a deal with the devil, a devil who now really has no intention of leaving Dottie alone after the deal has been done.

All of this leads to a third act that doesn’t so much unfold as explode, as the insurance plan falls apart because of ulterior motives within the family itself, not to mention Chris increasingly troubled by Joe’s relationship with his sister.

It all culminates in a twisted, vicious, sick, family dinner that takes in guns, fights, revelations… and chicken. And it is all something you won’t forget in a hurry.

If anyone knows about cranking up the tension until it just explodes, it is William Friedken. The Exorcist is still by far my favourite horror film and in Killer Joe, he has crafted another film that will always be close to my heart.

IMDB Rating: 6.7 Do I agree? Nope, I’m giving this film an 8

 

 

 

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