US / 102 minutes / color / LD, Voltage, PPC, Worldview, Ana Dir: William Friedkin Pr: Nicolas Chartier, Scott Einbinder Scr: Tracy Letts Story: Killer Joe (1993 play) by Tracy Letts Cine: Caleb Deschanel Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church, Marc Macaulay, Julia Adams, Sean O’Hara.
In Texas, dope-dealer Chris Smith (Hirsch) gets himself in hock to the tune of $6000 to the vile Digger Soames (Macaulay). Rex (O’Hara), boyfriend of Chris’s divorced mother Adele (Adams), mentions to Chris that Adele’s life insurance policy of $50,000 has Chris’s fey younger sister Dottie (Temple) as sole beneficiary; also that a Dallas cop, “Killer” Joe Cooper (McConaughey), moonlights as a hitman. Chris has an inspiration: he’ll hire Killer Joe to kill Adele, then persuade Dottie to share her windfall with the rest of the family, namely himself, their dimwitted father Ansel (Church) and Ansel’s second wife Sharla (Gershon).
Joe demands money upfront; when it proves the Smiths can’t offer that, he instead accepts Dottie as his “retainer”—and the two seem to fall hard for each other. After Adele’s murder, however, it proves the insurance beneficiary is not Dottie but Rex, and Joe correctly deduces that the whole saga has been set up by Sharla and Rex, who’s secretly her lover, with the rest of the Smith family as their intended patsies.
The levels of graphic violence and obscenity—including nudity, profanity, simulated sex and a protracted bout of faked fellatio with a KFC chicken leg—are pretty high, high enough that the theatrical version failed to get an R rating, instead being rated NC-17; on DVD/Blu-Ray purchasers can choose between the original and an R-rated cut (99 minutes). At Venice, Friedkin received the Mouse d’Argento (a side award determined by online critics) and the movie was generally well reviewed, yet it’s hard not to feel that it’s merely sneering at its redneck characters where movies like BRIAR PATCH (2003) and WINTER’S BONE (2010), which explored vaguely similar territories of deep rural noir, engaged more constructively with their protagonists and their milieu.
Gina Gershon makes an unforgettable entrance.
On Amazon.com: Killer Joe