No Ordinary Joe

By Alan Hustak on August 14, 2012

Three things you need to know about Killer Joe:  the movie which opened Friday at the Scotia Cinema : it is directed by William Friedkin, who made The Exorcist so nerve wracking,  it stars Matthew McConaughey, an actor of deadly charm as a West Dallas police officer who moonlights as a contract killer  and it’s based on an offbeat Broadway play by a skewed Pulitzer prize winning playwright, Tracy Letts.  

killer_joe.jpgIt is a cult film, a darkly funny film that will be talked about for years because of its NC17 rating and for its cheeky but pornographic violence. (In other words, no one under 18 is allowed to see it) .  It definitely is not a date flic.  The setting is Texas , a place for “hicks and rednecks with too much space to walk around in.”  The plot is straight forward, or so it seems.   Chris, a  dim and desperate  drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) hires Joe  to murder his chronically  alcoholic mother In order to collect her insurance to pay off his  debt. “Look at this way,” he rationalizes, “Is she doing anybody any good?”  As a retainer, until the deed is done, he offers Killer Joe his sweet, impressionable  virginal sister, Dottie, (the amazingly good Juno Temple).  


Chris has some redeeming qualities  but they are of little consequence when he make his  deal with the devil.  Hirsch is chillingly convincing as he  portrays  the wretched wide-eyed  insecurity behind evil in every scene.  The other characters in his trailer trash family are his pathetically dimwitted dad, (the wonderful Thomas Haden Church) and his sleazy stepmother, Sharla  (the powerful Gina Gershon)  who are  both in on the scheme.  

Cast against type, McConaughey gives a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. His Joe is a rattlesnake  in ray bans  as attractive as he is repulsive, He is a mesmerizing  human reptile who can intimidate a  Rottwieller.   Not since Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, another disturbing southern Gothic drama,  has an actor combined religious piety with pornographic menace

 Nothing in the movie  Is quite  what  it seems.  Things go dangerously awry.  Betrayal, double crosses and sheer stupidity result in more plot twists  than a motorcycle ride through the Texas Hill country. When  Joe is cheated and  extracts his pound of flesh,  McConaughey  does with fried chicken what Brando did with butter.  You will never look at a drumstick quite the same way again after enduring  the blood splattered, darkly erotic, manipulatively sadistic ending . Friedkin  has lost none of his power to   make a movie that delivers grimness with levity.



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