I’m glad to see Director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) re-team with his Bug scribe Tracy Letts for another crazy, weird, black comedy. Bug was an original strange hybrid of black comedy-horror that wasn’t like anything else and this time the duo tackles the crime-thriller genre with the same sadistic and comedic tone, only more fine-tuned and with an even more depraved sense of humor. The story is very simple: Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is in debt to a local gangster and needs to find a quick way to earn some easy cash. He ends up deciding that the only way to get enough money is to kill his mother and collect the insurance money which all would go to his little sister Dottie (Juno Temple). After convincing his dad, (Thomas Haden Church) who is divorced and currently married to another woman (Gina Gershon), that killing their mom/ex-wife is in the best interest for everyone they decide to hire a contract killer by the name of Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey).
It’s a little jarring when every character speaks and acts as if they were in a play, but this gives the film a surreal feeling that distances the audience while being playfully comedic at the same time and the noir elements keeps the story interesting. This is an example of a movie that is in complete control of its pacing and reveals, up until the final scene where the movie does a 180 turn with an ending that, love or hate, you will be talking about the rest of the night. A movie should never be all about the ending but there are some movies that have such a strong ending (The Usual Suspects, Psycho, The Sixth Sense) that that’s all everyone will talk about. This will be one of those movies. While the movie never drags on it is a slow burner that takes its time getting to where it needs to be, slowly escalating to it’s hilariously sadistic climax. The movie is about stupid people doing stupid things, and if you don’t find movies like Four Lions or the scenes of the two stupid kids in Gomorrah funny then you probably won’t enjoy this movie.
I’m not at all a fan of Matthew McConaughey, but his performance in the movie is the best of his career (although he also recently surprised me in Bernie just a few months ago) and one of my favorite performances this year. Emile Hirsch is an actor I’ve been a fan of for quite a while and it’s good to see that he still has the courage to take stranger roles that might not get him closer to being a star but will gain him some respect amongst the sure to be future cult fans of this movie. This is a movie that will likely be “discovered” in the next 5-10 years. See it in theaters while you can or you might regret it.
Killer Joe is now playing at the Ritz Five.