Verdict: 3.5 / 5
When low life Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) gets kicked out of his mother’s house after yet another violent encounter, he looks for refuge at his father’s trailer in a manic state with a plan to literally bag his old lady. Seems like a harsh tactic for vengeance, but Chris reveals to his seemingly dimwit father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) that’s his ex-wife made off with the cocaine he was meant to sell, which has placed him in a life or death predicament. First he tries to persuade Ansel to loan him $1000 till he can get more to keep Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay) the drugboss from killing him for a little longer. Unsurprisingly, Ansel doesn’t have any money to aid his son with. Chris then tells his father how Adele’s (the mother) sleazy boyfriend, Rex (Sean O’Hara) told him his mother has a $50 000 life policy, should she die, that money is paid out to young Dottie(Juno Temple).
The idea is to have Adele killed, split the money three ways and everyone is home free. Ansel, however, wants his (unknowingly adulteress) wife Sharla in on the cut. Immediately the whole scenario seems questionable, why would any son so easily think of killing his mother for money? Wanting to keep it from his sister Dottie, the men continue plotting when the name Joe (Matthew McConaughey) comes up, a hitman, Chris heard from by a source. Dottie awakens saying she overheard them, and she thinks it’s a good idea to have her mother killed.
With everyone on board Chris contacts Joe, who lays down the rules and conditions, one of which is that the fee is $25 000, not $20 000 as the source informed Chris, and this has to be paid before the deed is done. When Chris tries to explain that wouldn’t be possible, Joe abruptly adjures the meeting, heading for the door. He pauses for a moment, lingering at Dottie who dances in the street, and proposes that they add the possibility of a ‘retainer’ to their agreement – Dottie. Ansel foolishly agrees not fully aware or too oblivious to grasp what Joe means by this, and due to desperation Chris agrees, but is constantly sickened by the possession he has enforced on his little sister.
Joe makes himself comfortable in the Smiths ‘home’ for the full duration until the deed is done. But everything doesn’t fully go according as planned, placing this trailer trash Texan household, through a sickeningly violent ordeal.
Killer Joe is one of those rare films, which horrify, disgust and intrigue. Be warned that this is a very explicated film, with full nudity, cringing violence and brutality – not for the faint at heart… Layered with dark comedy and eyes filled with hysteria, the cast of Killer Joe deliver powerful and honest performances. Each do justice to their part, much can be said about each, and understandingly so they have received an array of nominations and awards. Such as; Winner Best Actor Saturn Awards (Matthew McConaughey), Nominated Best Supporting Actress Saturn Awards (Gina Gershon, Winner Special Honorary Award Austin Film Critics Association (Matthew McConaughey), Winner Actor of the Year, Central Ohio Film Critics Association (Matthew McConaughey), Nominated Best Actor Independent Spirit Awards (Matthew McConaughey), Nominated Best Supporting Actor San Diego Film Critics Society (Matthew McConaughey), Winner Best Supporting Actress Toronto Film Critics Association (Gina Gershon).
Writer Tracy Letts and Director William Friedkin have managed to create a piece worth applauding. Friedkin commented on why he was against editing it to gain a R-rating by saying “To get an R rating, I would have had to destroy it in order to save it and I wasn’t interested in doing that.” The original is 104 mins, this review made from the R-rated is 98 mins. Also available on blu-ray with special features, namely;
– Southern Fried Hospitality: From Stage to Screen featurette
– South by Southwest Q&A with the cast and intro by Friedkin
– The red-band theatrical trailer
– The theatrically-released cut under the name the “Unrated Director’s Cut”
– Audio commentary by Friedkin