Thoughts on… Killer Joe (2011)

Killer Joe, 2011.

Directed by William Friedkin.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church.


When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he puts a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect on her life insurance.

2012 was a great year for Matthew McConaughey. He had roles in BernieThe Paperboy and a scene stealing performance in Magic Mike. To go along with those movies he also starred in Killer Joe, where he gave a performance that has certainly been overlooked but everyone needs to see.

Killer Joe sees McConaughey as Killer Joe Cooper, a Dallas detective who moonlights as a hitman. Joe is approached by Chris (Emile Hirsch), who owes a lot of money to some very bad people. Chris wants Joe to kill his mother so he can get her $50,000 life insurance policy and pay off his debts. The problem is that Joe charges an upfront fee of $25,000, something Chris clearly does not have. Usually Joe doesn’t even bother if his client doesn’t have the money upfront, but in this case Joe takes Chris’ sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a retainer until Chris can come up with the money.

The plot here isn’t the most original but director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) brings a certain flair to proceedings and makes Killer Joe a very dark and disturbing tale. This is based off a play of the same name, with playwright Tracy Letts also penning the screenplay and that was probably a good thing because he has put together a very tight script. There are a couple of slow moments here and there but overall the movie has a pretty brisk pace and there is always something interesting happening on the screen. One of the more interesting – and rather disturbing – scenes comes toward the end and it really is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen on film, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t entertaining. It all leads up to a rather satisfying conclusion that certainly leaves you wanting more.

Like I mentioned before, McConaughey gives a really great performance here. His character Joe is the definition of cool and McConaughey plays him hilariously dark. The scenes he has with Juno Temple are entertaining because their relationship is so unusual and they surprisingly have great chemistry. Emile Hirsch hasn’t done too much in the last couple of years but he does a really good job here and it’s great to see him back on the screen. Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon make for some of the movies funniest moments playing Chris and Dottie’s dad and step-mom. All of the cast are great, but it’s McConaughey’s show and he puts on a damn fine one.

Killer Joe is dark and disturbing but the well written script and great performance by Matthew McConaughey are sure to make this a cult classic.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Jake Peffer

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