|Directed by:||William Friedkin|
|Written by:||Tracy Letts|
|Cast:||Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon|
Full Disclosure: Preceding the screening of Killer Joe at the Seattle International Film Festival director William Friedkin won the SIFF Lifetime Achievement Award (for the second time he pointed out) and in what was supposed to be a 30 minute tribute/interview with the accomplished director turned into almost two hours of him just telling awesome, hilarious and truly enthralling stories about his experiences in the industry.
If I wasn't laughing at his anecdotes it was because he was blowing my mind with some factoid. For example, did you know he directs operas? The guy that was behind the camera of The Excorcist and The French Connection dabbles in opera! How cool is that?! Friedkin may be in his late 80's but he is one of the funniest and most genuine men I have ever watched speak.
He can also cuss up a storm and I somehow find that incredibly endearing.
So I was rooting for Killer Joe and I wanted to like it a lot before the theater even darkened ... I ended up loving it.
Now let's review a movie!
This isn't William Friedkin's first rodeo with the screenwriter/playwrite Tracy Letts (the other being 2006's Bug as well as some stage work) and their collaboration is performing at the highest it has ever been. "It all starts with the words" Friedkin stated prior to the screening going on to say that what we would see onscreen was pretty much word for word from the Letts screenplay meaning he's probably the most responsible for what makes Killer Joe work.
First off I want to talk about the tone of Killer Joe which truly allows the actors performances to shine. To call it a dark comedy would be an understatement. I guess the best way I can sum it up is by classifying it as a "trailer trash film noir battered in humor and deep-fried in brutality".
Yeah, that'll do. Hell, that'd look great on the back cover of Killer Joe's Blu-ray ...
This film is perfectly cast as well with most of the actors going against their normal typecasts and just nailing it. Emile Hirsch is entirely believable as a stupid, frightened boy who is in over his head and just doesn't know it. Mathew McConaughey's character is both so deliciously sinister and charming you almost can't help like him ... even when you should be utterly repulsed by his actions. He masks his sinister side with politeness, but his eyes are cruel ... I haven't seen a movie that has the antagonist walk that fine line so well since Robert Mitchum's murderous character in The Night of the Hunter. Juno Temple plays an innocent, in virtually every sense of the word, girl who appears to be blissfully ignorant of the predicament she has found herself in but also seems to be fully aware of her own actions. Gina Gershon (an NC-17 vet) and Thomas Haden Church truly shine through as dirtbag trailer park parents.
Especially Church, he owns the role of dumbass dad. Seriously. The way Church plays the father figure as more of an equal, or even intellectually inferior to Hirsch is brilliant and probably gets the most laughs. You totally believe that he is this dude, who's content just to sit around in long johns, a trucker hat, chuckling at monster truck DVDs whilst sucking down cheap beer. Church pretty much steals every scene he's in by playing stupidity straight and in doing so creates some of the greats gut-busting laughs.
As for the pacing Killer Joe is a bit of a slowburn initially but where a typical film noir could easily get bogged down trying to force the plot forward the welcomed addition of humor in, virtually nonstop ranging from lowbrow to completely absurd, thoroughly entertain and keep you engaged. Clocking in at only 103 minutes rest assured the action pops up like controlled bursts of insanity propelling us to a final showdown and it pays off in a very satisfying and brutal way.
And when the credits roll I reckon you'll probably have a big stupid, satisfied grin on your face. I sure as hell did!
By the way, you may not have to wait too long to see Killer Joe as it looks like it will get a limited release outside of film festivals starting July 27th!
Now I know some of you are wondering if Killer Joe deserves its NC-17 rating and I honestly don't think it does. William Friedkin said it best before the Killer Joe even started, "Fuck the MPAA." The MPAA is pretty damn hard to get a handle on but it's pretty safe to say that when it comes to sexual content they tend to be prudish while when it comes to violence they tend to let it slide a bit more. I have seen a few NC-17 flicks over the years and I don't feel like Killer Joe has the explicit sex and nudity of last year's Shame, the nun-rape and hyperdermic drug use of Bad Lieutenant (not that Nic Cage flick, the other one) or the gratuitous nudity of Showgirls to warrant this super-restrictive rating.
*******POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILERS (But probably not)*******
Yes, there is definitely nudity, some awkward sexual content and some very brutal violence but nothing that I'd consider NC-17 level, just in hard R territory. I don't think it is much of a spoiler to say one of the most shocking moments in the movie that probably will be talked about the most involves a certain foodstuff filling in for a certain part of the male anatomy. While it is definitely degrading for the person on the receiving end it is not exceptionally explicit. It's not like an actual dick was whipped out and being sucked, it was a proxy penis by way of chicken leg.