Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church and Juno Temple
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
In debt to some shady figures, Chris (Played by Emile Hirsch), needs to find some money or lose his life. Learning that his mother has a 50,000 dollar life insurance policy, which his naïve, emotionally fragile and potentially psychologically damaged little sister will receive, he concocts a plan with his father to hire a cop by day killer by night in order to do the deed for them. Promising the titular character (Played by Matthew McConaughey) a cut of the life insurance policy rather than giving him payment up front, he agrees to bend his rules in exchange for the companionship of the little sister, Dotty (Juno Temple).
What is undoubtedly brilliant about Killer Joe is the performance of Matthew McConaughey, with this being a centerpiece in his 2012 career revival. While his performance in Magic Mike is more overtly comical, this role may be one of the funniest that Matthew has portrayed (Despite the litany of romantic comedies he has starred in) He dominates every scene he is in and the film suffers when he is not on screen. His character oozes control, creepiness and calmness, yet with a pervasive edge and underlying darkness and danger. A more interesting film would have had him as the true centerpiece of the narrative; something that could have still maintained the character’s mystique yet augmented or exploited his magnetism.
Juno Temple (Seen briefly in The Dark Knight Rises as Catwoman’s underdeveloped and unnecessary teenage sidekick) threatens to steal the limelight from McConaughey however, with her performance sure to propel her into the roles that will propel her into stardom. As Dotty, Temple has a very difficult role to play in terms of selling the naïve quality of the character in an earnest manner. Temple never overdoes it, yet it is certainly not a subtle performance. She manipulates your emotions more than any other character, being perhaps the most sympathetic and both the true victim and villain of the piece.
In regards to the visual look of the film, Friedkin seems to at the beginning deny and fight against this material’s stage origins with some very flashy and atmospheric cinematography. However by the end of the film the stage origins are embraced, accepted and more evident as the action moves into singular settings, with the quality of the performances lighting up the screen rather than flashy camera angles or pieces of lightning.
Killer Joe must also be commended for making me look away from the screen. Killer Joe contains some of the most uncomfortable scenes of the year and while it makes the film not entirely enjoyable to watch, it is an appropriate way to depict such behavior and the fact that it elicited such a reaction from me suggests that Friedkin and his cast were doing something right. However there is an argument that at times this film goes over the top and to some very unnecessary places. There is a lot of female nudity in this film, with the female characters being constantly abused, exploited and degraded. I am aware that there is a difference between portraying sexism and being sexist, however the film’s attitude towards women at certain points did at times seem to be lacking a purpose. Like Seven Psychopaths, it is a film, which leaves itself open to accusations of sexism, even though I do not personally believe that those who constructed them are so.
The film has some moments of dark comedy, with one line perhaps being the strangest laugh I have had watching a film all year. Tonally this film, like its plot and characters, is crazy and all over the place. At times you are left unsure as to how exactly Friedkin wants you to feel, however sometimes these conflicting tones are contradictory rather than refreshing, leaving you unsure as to how a certain scene should be approached or processed. Ultimately however my main problems with Killer Joe lies in the shallow, superficial yet true fact that I didn’t like these characters, didn’t like what they were doing and didn’t like the ending. I’m not somebody who needs likable characters, doing likable things and a clear-cut ending. In fact Killer Joe contains many of the things I wish more films had, yet underneath the unlikable characters, unlikable actions and obtuse ending, I didn’t think there was anything particularly original, interesting or of substance. At times it seemed the film was simply going for shock value and nothing beyond that. My initially shallow criticism are in fact created by and a result of, what is ultimately in my opinion, a rather shallow film.
I can understand how somebody could lap up this entire film, and how for others it could sit the wrong way. At times I loved the performances and the darkness, appreciating the strong emotional reactions it got out of me. However as the film went along, it lost my patience and lost my interest as I saw there was little else behind it. When the film reaches its climatic kitchen scene, yes I was sickened, yes I was surprised, and yes I was enjoying the performances, yet I was also ready for it to end, rolling my eyes and surprisingly dismissive considering what I had just witnessed.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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