By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
The last time Southern shock playwright (which is a ultra-specific category, possibly with a population of 1) Tracy Letts teamed up with director William Friedkin (The Exorcist), the result was just as demented and bugfuck as you’d hope for. Bug established Michael Shannon as a g0-t0 crazy eyes actor on the rise and apparently was enough for Letts and Friedkin to team up again on Killer Joe.
No one does it better
Killer Joe follows the none-too-bright Chris (Emile Hirsch) as he teams up with his possibly even stupider dad (ThomasHadenChurch) and stepmom (Gina Gershon) in a plot to off his biological mom for some insurance money, which will go to his easily influenced innocent younger sister, Dottie (JunoTemple). They hire a corrupt cop/contract killer (Matthew McConaughey), but when things go inevitably south they find themselves in his sights, with their only potential saving grace his predatory interest in Dottie.
Letts is known for his filthy, trashy Southern-fried aesthetic, and Friedkin and the entire cast absolutely revel in it. Hirsch and especially Church are dumb and skuzzy beyond belief, to hilarious results and Gina Gershon nails her role as the (by a thin margin) brains of the group. JunoTemple is great as a Trailer Park Lolita as well, but it’s McConaughey who steals the show as the charming and incredibly menacing Joe. His acting may be limited to various iterations of the Good ‘Ol Boy archetype, but he’s clearly the absolute go-to guy for that kind of role.
Friedkin shoots the flick with a gritty, gorgeous flair perfect for the material that also happens to nicely showcase the film’s ample nudity. Just about everyone gets in on the action, which is especially good news if you’re a Temple fan. Oh, and ladies, this flick just underlines 2012 as “The Year of McConaughey’s Ass.”
It even got its own movie
What I most enjoyed about Killer Joe, though, is its buildup to one of the ballsiest, less fuck-giving endings I’ve ever seen. It’s… perfect.
One of my pet peeves is the propensity of film adaptations of stage plays to fail to leave the stage behind. Either acknowledge you’re basically bringing a video camera to a play, or make the effort to put a more realistic, film-friendly shine on it. Killer Joe generally succeeds in the latter, but particularly in its climax, frustratingly shows its roots at times.
This movie is already infamous for a, how do I put it? A KFC drumstick fellatio scene. Now, going for the extreme is fine by me, provided you have a thematic reason for it, and Killer Joe certainly does. I’m not complaining about the inclusion of the scene, but how goddam long it goes. You’ll definitely need a beer about the time it slips from “shocking” into “gratuitously exploitative.”
Did I mention the film was tagged with the dreaded NC-17 rating? William Friedkin’s ca-razy adaptation of Tracy Letts’s controversial play lives up to that billing, for better or worse. You’re not likely to view KFC drumsticks the same way ever again, but don’t let that put you off seeing one of the most surprising films of the year.
Take a Drink: every time someone is beat up
Take a Drink: every time there’s nudity
Take a Drink: every time Juno Temple is sexualized/objectified
Do a Shot: for KFC, of course