Killer Joe

Dir: William Friedkin

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Thomas Hayden Church, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple

The name Matthew McConaughey has been synonymous with bad films for a long time now; with his only notable credits coming in supporting roles in movies such as Frailty, Lone Star and Contact. However, let it never be said that William Friedkin, a man with a very mixed directorial history, doesn’t get the best out of his actors. Killer Joe is McConaughey’s Pulp Fiction; dominating every scene he’s in and dripping with malevolence.

When Chris (Hirsch), a 22 year old drug dealer, discovers that his stash has been stolen by his mother, drastic measures are needed. After finding out she has a life insurance policy, he conspires with his father (Church), to hire a hitman (McConaughey) to kill her and claim the money. However, when his lack of readies becomes a stumbling block, he is faced with the prospect of exchanging his younger sister Dottie (Temple) as collateral.

Killer Joe is a dark and twisted thing, full of great performance, dark humour and unflinching violence. McConaughey is a revelation in his portrayal of an unhinged contract killer; oozing danger and malice at every step. This really is his film; a calling card for what he can actually do when given the opportunity. Juno Temple is a name that you might not know, but you soon will. The British actress is a huge prospect for the future, and her performance here is fearless; imbuing Dottie with an ephemeral wisdom and saintly aura, which belie her tender years. Church’s performance as the alcoholic, beaten-down husband is also a real treat.

Whilst not a film for everyone (it is pretty hard viewing at times), Killer Joe has the potential to win over a mainstream audience. The dirty ethos of the cinematography works superbly and the film is reminiscent at times of Blue Velvet era Lynch. This definitely has a lot of cult potential. The story may not be new one, but the execution feels fresh and innovative. Adapted from a stage play, where Killer Joe really excels is when the characters are placed in a claustrophobic setting; the sense of impeding dread is palpable and the walls seem to bleed with sweat.

Friedkin has produced a bold and brave vision; just don’t expect to fancy a KFC afterwards.

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