Killer Joe

2011

Directed by William Friedkin – Written by Tracy Letts

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple

Did you know this was a comedy? No? Neither did I. Nothing in the advertising I saw billed it as such, not even the extended trailer I saw at the cinema made it seem remotely funny. Still, the trailer did grab my attention and it seemed there was a problem from the start, casting Matthew McConaughey as the lead role, Killer Joe Cooper. He has a really friendly face and did not look the part of a ruthless killer, but it’s actually a comedy so this makes more sense now.

I say comedy, it’s dark, very very dark. So be aware of that. We’ve cleared that up and let us move on, don’t let the marketing mistake put you off, this is a very good piece of cinema.

William Friedkin sits the director’s chair for this one. This is a man who brought arguably the best horror film to ever hit our screens, The Exorcist (1973) and who also is a past master of cinéma vérité. If you are not familiar with this cinematic style I would suggest watching Ulrich Seidl’s Palme d’Or nominated and Grand Prix winning, Import/Export (2007). What he has accomplished here is taking a very good script, casting it near perfectly and creating an atmosphere in which the story can express itself and grow. Friedkin himself has said we’re not supposed to ‘enjoy’ this film, and he is right, but not only do you enjoy it, you admire it.

Killer Joe is uncomfortably uncomfortable and sucks you so deeply in to the story you’ll find it hard to take a step back and enjoy it as a film, as opposed to just a story – and there is a lot to enjoy once you do take that step back. The cinematography from Caleb Deschanel is immaculate, performances are stellar and the slow burning narrative is more disturbing than you may first realise. Juno Temple (22 at playing the part) plays Dottie Smith (around the age of 13), she’s lusted after and eventually seduced by Killer Joe – one hell of a scene I may add, literally on the edge of my seat. A lot of people will dislike this movie because of the moments like this; it seems a huge chunk of audiences have forgotten that cinema is an art form and art is there to explore and critique the world. The people behind films don’t do this sort of thing just to get a shock and rise from an audience, they do it because this is what happens in the real world and we shouldn’t shy away from it, open your eyes.

This does produce a lot of laughs, if like me you have that dark sense of humour, but it’s also neo-noir, thriller, edge of your seat oh my fuck is this really happening? It turns out McConaughey can really act, fingers crossed he doesn’t just head back to the dreadful world of rom-coms after this. Think Blue Velvet (1986) but less surreal.

It’s hard to put this film in to words. There are reports of people leaving the theatres in the last 20 or so minutes and I can see why. You need a stomach for this one. This will be under appreciated until it reaches a cult status in a few years. I’ll definitely be adding this to my DVD collection and so should you.

9/10

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