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Killer Joe

Finger-lickin’ great.

Rod Lott December 20th, 2012

When cast in the right role, which is rarely and does not include Magic Mike, Matthew McConaughey can be an electrifying onscreen presence. His breakthrough bit in 1993′s Dazed and Confused is one of those times; Killer Joe is another.


He stars as the titular Texas full-time cop and freelance hit man in The Exorcist director William Friedkin’s second unconventional collaboration with Oklahoma-born screenwriter Tracy Letts (Bug), both adapted from Letts’ own stage plays.

Joe Cooper’s latest assignment comes from a low-life piece of trailer trash named Chris Smith (Speed Racer‘s Emile Hirsch), who hires Joe to kill his mother so he can pay off his debts with the “huge” $50,000 life insurance payout. The problem is Joe requires his $25K fee in advance, which Chris obviously doesn’t have. However, Joe is willing to waive his “no exceptions” rule in exchange for a retainer: specifically, Chris’ little sister, Dottie (Dirty Girl Juno Temple), a virgin who thinks killing their mom is “a good idea.”

Things don’t go as planned. Hell, things don’t go in any direction viewers would anticipate, giving the hick flick a coat of disturbia as thick as the Texas heat. Unease and discomfort saturate this twisted tale, and McConaughey is the unlikely vessel for its evil, as “menacing” is not one of the adjectives I’d readily affix to his name.

Likely to offend more people than it will seduce, Killer Joe at least makes its sick, inbred nature clear from scene one, as it hits you right in the face, somewhat literally, with the exposed crotch of a brave Gina Gershon (Showgirls). And that’s mere kids’ stuff compared to the elongated final scene, in which McConaughey makes novel use of a food item that may have you swear off KFC for life. (Not for nothing was the redneck thriller rated NC-17, and this director’s cut without a rating at all.)

Those still around will be thrown a polarizing, over-the-top ending that’ll have you hooting or cursing. I did the former. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
film review  
Dirty Girl
DVD review   
The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut & Original Theatrical Edition
Blu-ray review  
Magic Mike
Blu-ray review   
Speed Racer
film review 

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