Killer Joe (2012)
By: Rip on March 14, 2013 | Comments
Roadshow | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 98 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon
Screenplay: Tracy Letts
Country: USA
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American director William Friedkin will forever be remembered, and deservedly so, for his 1970's classics The Exorcist and The French Connection, but these days he rarely makes a film, seemingly unless something tickles his fancy. His last film, Bug from 2006 and based on the stage play by Tracy Letts, was very impressive, but his latest is the subject of this review and it may well be the best thing Friedkin's done since 1985's To Live And Die In L.A.

Set in the outer suburbs of Dallas, Texas, Matthew McConaughey (continuing his recent return to form after a series of cringe-worthy 'rom-coms') stars as the title character 'Killer' Joe Cooper, a renegade local police detective who moonlights as a contract hitman. Joe is hired by a young down-and-out drug dealer, Chris (Emile Hirsch), to bump off his own mother for the insurance money, but the problem is, Chris can't actually pay Joe his upfront fee until the pay-out comes through post death. Badly in debt to a bunch of very dodgy benefactors, Chris manages to convince Joe to take on the job minus his customary advance, but only on one condition - that Joe is allowed to keep Chris' virginal younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), as a 'retainer' until the hit is made and the fee paid in full. Also banking on a cut of the insurance pay-out is Chris' beer-guzzling, layabout father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and his obnoxious new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon), who are both more than happy to allow Joe the services of Dottie until the job is completed. However, when Chris starts to get second thoughts, proceedings take a significant turn for the worse and to reveal any more on the plot's mechanics would be doing you, the reader, a great disservice.

Killer Joe reunites Friedkin and American playwright Tracy Letts from the aformentioned Bug, and it is as gruesome, debauched and disturbing a film as it is a hilariously funny one. Parasitic protagonist Chris and his family are the absolute epitomy of 'trailer trash', and the actors give it their all with completely no holds barred performances. McConaughey is a revelation and oozes menace as the sociopathic Joe Cooper, a polite and fiercely charming character who is quite clearly deranged, though likeable all the same. It's a beautifully modulated peformance from McConaughey and it would be easy to say that he steals the movie if it weren't also for the brilliant work of Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon and especially Juno Temple. Temple is the daughter of long time Sex Pistols collaborator and film director, Julien Temple, and she is simply divine as the sweetly nutty Dottie, a character who is much more than she seems. Both Temple and Gershon go places in their respective roles that many female actors would not, but I'll let you find out where that is for yourselves. Emile Hirsch is annoyingly perfect as perpetual loser Chris, and Haden Church is hysterical as his 'thick-as-two-short-planks' father, Ansel.

Though generally deemed a black comedy, Killer Joe is wonderfully written by Tracy Letts, based on his stage-play, and feels far more like a satire on greed and commodification than a regular laugh-fest, though it is diabolically funny. It certainly deserves its 'R' rating here in Australia and that's not just due to the odd moment of graphic violence. The film has ruffled a few feathers with its on-screen treatment of women and admittedly those few sequences are hard to take, but I believe that is Friedkin's point, so you'll have to decide for yourselves. Be warned though, 'cause this sure ain't one for the kiddies...
The Disc
For a SD-DVD, the picture quality here is very good. Clean, sharp and full of detail, with deep blacks and nice naturalistic colours. Free of artifacts, the print is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio and 16x9 enhanced, with subtitles available for the hearing impaired. Audio is fine, with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a 2.0 channel audio descriptive version for the vision-impaired. Being that this film is an adaptation of a stage-play, it's pretty much a dialogue-based affair, and the surrounds and subwoofer are only called upon for occasional claps of thunder, gunshots and odd directional effects. Tyler Bates' original score comes through nicely and there's some great rockin' tunes on the soundtrack by Southern Culture On The Skids and Lee Hazelwood. In terms of special features, once again we in R4-land are gipped. Apart from a few trailers, we only get a 5 minute interview with William Friedkin and 15 minutes worth of 'B-Roll' footage, which is interesting if only to see the great man at work. The R1 DVD/BD has a Friedkin commentary, a 'making of', a cast Q&A and more, whilst our Blu-ray variant contains a few extra interviews on top of the DVD's features.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
William Friedkin's Killer Joe is jaw-droppingly audacious and a real return to form for the director. Anchored by a mesmerizing performance from Matthew McConaughey, this modern day noir tale is really something else and you'll certainly never look at a piece of fried chicken the same way again. Check it out, folks. It's finger-lickin' good...

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