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Killer Joe

January 6, 2013



Killer Joe Movie Poster

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The poster sums it up. Killer Joe is a “totally twisted, deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story.” The film is based on the 1993 Texas Gothic play by Tracey Letts. the Gothic aspects stick out because of the blending of terror and romance that merge with specific locals. The script reminded me of Flannery O’Connor’s short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find. The two are different in structure and character development but both feature mysterious characters, religious tones and southern locations. Both stories end on bloody and humorous tones. Especially, in Good Man where the Misfit kills an old woman and says “She would have been a good woman if there had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Killer Joe is absolutely bonkers. totally twisted and sickly fantastic. The story revolves around a family of dimwits who hire a hitman to kill their mother/ex-wife so they can collect the $50,000 in life insurance to make them trailer rich and debt free from the gangsters looking for blood.  They are a crew of promiscuous, alcoholic and uneducated folk who are easily manipulated and quick to lend the youngest to be the hitmans retainer.

Killer Joe Thomas Hayden Church

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Matthew McConaughey had a stellar 2012 (Magic Mike, Bernie, Paperboy). In this film he manages to use the McC charm while exuding a believable malice. Something dark lurks behind the good ole Texas boy persona. His final scene with Thomas Hayden Church and Gina Gershon should earn him an Oscar nomination. What makes him scary is his charisma. His character reminded me of the smooth talking H.H. Holmes who was chronicled in the educational/frightening book The Devil in the White City. The reason this film didn’t shock me like Korean killer films like I Saw the Devil or Thirst is because I know the ebb and flow of southern Gothic novels and the buttons they push. The biggest surprise was McConaughey.  The only other 2012 performance that is on his level is Jack Black’s lovable killer in Bernie.

Killer Joe matthew mcconaughey

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If you can find humor among death, dumb and chicken wings you will love this film. The performances by McC, Church, Gershon and Hirsch are all-in marvels of commitment. I find it odd that Juno Temple is getting zero reward talk. She pulls off the the bravest performance of 2012 and deserves some mention come Oscar time. If it were not for the cast and odd tongue in cheek attitude the movie would be a draining experience that sucks you into a bad place that can only be cured by episodes of New Girl and Happy Endings. There is a current of humor flowing in the river of filth. Also, most of the time you are amazed by McC’s performance that you forget what he is doing with a piece of chicken. Killer Joe walks a dirty tightrope that could easily be pushed into exploitation land. The thing that saves the film is the unique Gothic writing of Letts and the crafy direction of Friedkin (Exorcist, French Connection).

Killer Joe Emile Hirsch Juno Temple

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Killer Joe is not an easy film. It is not for the faint of heart or unsuspecting person expecting a McConaughey romantic comedy. It is lean, mean and totally twisted. The film is also hard to recommend because of the violence and yuckiness that hits you like the Texas heat. If you like Gothic themes, fantastic dialogue set pieces and all-in performances check this film out.

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