Killer Joe (2011) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Killer Joe (2011) Directed by William Friedkin. With Matthew McConaughey, Juno Temple, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon.


Directed by William Friedkin and adapted from a screenplay by Pulitzer prize winning playwright Tracy Letts, Killer Joe is a twisted, modern day Cinderella story of sorts that while certain to be difficult to digest for some, is no less beautiful and brilliant.

The plot is straightforward. Dallas, Texas and a young man (Emile Hirsch) and his his father (Thomas Haden Church) plan a contract killing of their difficult mother/ex wife respectively, with a view to collecting the life insurance paid out after her death.

Occupying the title role of hitman ‘Joe’ is rom-com regular Matthew McConaughey. Despite a reputation as your typical leading man, it’s always been clear to me that McConaughey has talent in reserve beyond what we’re usually allowed to see, so it’s pleasing to see him in such mesmerising form. As Joe, McConaughey is pure creeping menace.

The Cinderella of this story, and with an unforgettable performance, is talented young British actress Juno Temple as ‘Dottie’. As the plot complicates, the relationship between ‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Dottie’ deepens to an extent that some may struggle to endure. In some backwards way, amid her turbulent life, Joe becomes something of a dark knight in shining armour to Dottie, and I mean dark.

Although much of the setting and material is bleak and tragic, as is often the case there is a certain amount of black comedy applied. One scene later in the film, involving a piece of  fried chicken might have you think twice about ordering a bargain bucket in the immediate aftermath. Or to the contrary, depending on your persuasion.

What is clear is that Killer Joe is a provocative film from a seasoned provocateur. Friedkin hasn’t forgotten how to make an audience uncomfortable and what’s more is he seems to still enjoy it. It is a fine film that captures the innate dysfunctionalities of many struggling American families with some truly brilliant performances and a brand of humour that might just turn your stomach. 4.5/5

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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