Killer Joe Review: Fun for the Whole Family!

killer joe posterNothing says Father-Son bonding quite like pimping out your sister to a middle aged stranger to serve as collateral while that stranger kills your mom.

Killer Joe is the second movie I was sad to have missed in 2012, so I took a break from theater going on monday night and gave it a whirl.  The trailers I had seen left me expecting Dark Comedy with an emphasis on the “Dark”, yet other than that I really had no way of expecting just how incredibly f*cked up things would get.  While there are more than a few incredibly uncomfortable scenes that cross even my own boundaries of decency, Killer Joe is a well acted and surprisingly intelligent film that showcases one of the finest performances of Matthew Maconaughey’s career.

The Plot:

When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance.

The Players:

Dressing to the nines, Texas Style

Dressing to the nines, Texas Style

The majority of the movie centers around the Smith family; Chris (Emile Hirsch), his dad Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church), his sister Dottie (Juno Temple) and his step-mother Sharla (Gina Gershon).  Together, they make up the shittiest family unit I have ever seen on screen, which is saying something as I’ve seen The Squid and the Whale.  I’ve got to give it to the actors involved for completely selling the audience on how crappy these people really are, with the exception of Dottie who is more of an innocent, lost soul with what I only assume is some sort of mental disability.  Hirsch does a great job of melting into his role as a selfish, scared kid who’s conscience eventually eclipses his instincts for self-preservation.  Gershon starts out as a pretty cut-and-dried bitchy stepmother but as the plot thickens, a new layer is added to her character that adds a lot to her level of intrigue.  I really enjoyed Church as the physically and mentally Neanderthal-ish Ansel, especially since he’s often the only source of comedy amid the darkness of the rest of the film.  While it’s the mother that is the target of the family’s hit, we never get to

Thomas Haden Church officially wins the Oscar for Worst Beard of all Time

Thomas Haden Church officially wins the Oscar for Worst Beard of all Time

actually see her before the deed is done.  Because of that, we’re left with stories of how much she deserves it from Chris, Dottie and Ansel and end up feeling perfectly okay with the idea of punching her ticket.  Instead, the main object of sympathy here is Dottie, who is given to Killer Joe as a retainer in lieu of an advanced payment for the hit.  Her limited mental capacity and young age make it all the more horrifying to see Joe take advantage of her in the way he does.

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over how badass I look right now

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over how badass I look right now

Now we come to Killer Joe himself.  The best word I’ve seen to describe McConaughey’s performance is “Oily”, and it’s a word that he personifies with incredible ease.  McConaughey turns his usual drawlish, laid-back charm and twists it into a character who’s smooth-talking on the outside and rotten to the core on the inside.  On top of that, he’s also the only semi-intelligent character of the whole bunch which shows vey clearly near the end of the movie. The disorienting thing about his character is that he’s simultaneously the most interesting to watch and the most horrifying to watch.  The worst part is, there is no real transition between his states of charming and downright evil, which makes it so you seriously have no idea what he’s going to do next.

Random Comments:

I know what you're asking yourself and the answer is yes; She was Catwoman's gal-pal in TDKR

I know what you’re asking yourself and the answer is yes; Juno Temple was Catwoman’s gal-pal in TDKR

- Sadly enough, this is the first William Friedkin movie I’ve ever seen

- The Fried Chicken scene is probably the most f*cked up thing I’ve ever scene in a film.

- I have even less desire to ever go to Texas now

- Never thought I’d say this, but there’s almost too much nudity here

- Favorite scene in the movie?  Ansel’s Wardrobe Malfunction

The Verdict:  7.5/10  Superior

+ Amazingly slimy performance by Maconaughey

+ Plot twists enough to stay interesting

+ Some great Dark Comedy style banter between Chris and Ansel

- Often incredibly difficult to watch, is certainly not for the weak of stomach

Critical Consensus

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%

IMDb: 6.8/10

MetaCritic: 62/100

Other Reviews:

Cinematic Corner: 98/100

Fogs’ Movie Reviews: A-

Marked Movies: 4.5/5

Dan the Man Movies Reviews: 7.5/10

Cinematic Katzenjammer: 6.0/10

Fast Film Reviews: 3/5

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About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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22 Responses to Killer Joe Review: Fun for the Whole Family!

  1. “Nothing says Father-Son bonding quite like pimping out your sister to a middle aged stranger to serve as collateral while that stranger kills your mom.” Dude, my dad and I used to do that all the time! Cmon…

    You havent seen “The Exorcist” or “French Connection” though? Those movies are BAD ASS. :D Get on those! :D

    Oh, and good review, McConaughey definitely was “Oily” LOL

  2. theipc says:

    One of my favorite movies of 2012!!!

  3. Mark Walker says:

    Great write-up Andy. This was one of my favourites of the year. Glad to hear you took something from this as well. By the way, you should check out William Friedkin’s “Bug” it was written by the same playwright as this and another good film.
    Thanks for the linkage as well man :-)

  4. sati says:

    Glad you enjoyed the film and thanks for linking to my review! I thought the cast was terrific especially Matthew and Gina Gershon. Shame it was too heavy to get any major awards, I absolutely adored the movie.

  5. filmhipster says:

    An unexpected gem of 2012.

  6. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Andy. It’s a bunch of fun, if you like sex, nudity, crime, near-rape, and chicken. Altogether, they make a wacky and wild movie that has a cast that shines and continues to be more and more game as the material goes along.

  7. Nick Powell says:

    Oily is definitely a great way to describe the character. While I didn’t give it as high of a score you did, the film’s grown on me a bit (just a bit). It’s something I’ll revisit later. Anyway, again thanks for the inclusion of my review. I plan on working on commenting more on your stuff so keep an eye out!

  8. Mark Hobin says:

    Like the Floridians in The Paperboy, this recounts the sordid lives of a group of southerners, in this case Texas. Both casts even include Matthew McConaughey. This was kind of trashy, but it was well acted. I don’t ever want to eat KFC after seeing this though.

  9. cinenemablog says:

    One of the best 2012-but-it’s-actually-2011 movies!

  10. Steph says:

    The first paragraph of this post cracked me up. :-) Terrific review, Andy! I’m glad I started following your blog, as I really like your style.

    I recently reviewed this movie too — I surprised myself by liking it a whole lot more than I thought I would. The wardrobe malfunction was classic. I love the way Ansel had that dopey deer in headlights look, and it didn’t even occur to him to just take off the jacket so he wouldn’t look like an idiot. I think the funniest part for me was the “Is this your dick?” scene.

    • r361n4 says:

      Lol, that scene was also a classic. Glad to hear you like my writing style, I love every new follower who comes on board :) I’m also following you now

  11. “Nothing says Father-Son bonding quite like pimping out your sister to a middle aged stranger to serve as collateral while that stranger kills your mom” LOL

    “they make up the shittiest family unit I have ever seen on screen, which is saying something as I’ve seen The Squid and the Whale”, “The disorienting thing about his character is that he’s simultaneously the most interesting to watch and the most horrifying to watch”: SPOT-ON

    Great review, man. This was one of my favorite 2012 films.

  12. I still have not seen this, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Though, everyone says just about the same thing about the chicken scene.

  13. This was actually the fourth Friedkin film I’ve seen on the big screen (I’ve previously seen The French Connection, To Live and Die In L.A., and The Exorcist). The fried chicken scene was immensely disturbing, and your statement about the nudity was hilarious. A terrific film overall.

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