Finding himself in considerable debt, Chris a Texan drug dealer, decides the only solution is to murder his mother to collect the insurance money. Getting together with his father, the ex-husband of Chris' mother, they decide to hire Joe Cooper a contract killer, who also happens to be a police detective. The plan is that the money will go to Chris' sister Dottie. However due to the size of the contract fee, Chris agrees that Joe can take Dottie as a retainer until the insurance comes through. Written by
Jet-black climax manages to cement a rather average film into the memory
Texan drug-dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) lands himself in hot water, owing money to a gang of big-time criminals. After being refused money by his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), Chris comes up with a plot to have his mother murdered, collecting the life insurance money that he believes will pass to his sister Dottie (Juno Temple). To do the deed, they hire police detective and part-time contract killer 'Killer' Joe (Matthew McConaughey). Unable to pay his fees up front, Joe decides to take Dottie as collateral, who he asks to spend the night with, until the debt is paid.
Killer Joe's poster tagline reads 'A totally twisted, deep-fried, Texas redneck trailer park murder story', and really, that's precisely what it is. The central families sheer utter repulsiveness becomes the comedy vein that prevails throughout the plot, as we are greeted by Sharla (Gina Gershon), Ansel's second wife, opening her trailer door to reveal her hairy bush to a disgusted Chris. But Chris's loud-mouthed ineptness, Ansel's zombie-like idiocy, and Sharla's blatant man-eating are neutralised by Juno Temple's strange, quirky presence, and her submissive relationship with Killer Joe that is as unsettling as it is oddly sweet. It's a quite amazing performance, and her scenes with an almost equally impressive McConaughey provide the film's highlights.
If the film has a definite strong point, it is in the performances. While the aforementioned Temple and McConaughey will steal the plaudits, Haden Church's dumb, lurch-like performance reminds us why he was Oscar- nominated for the sublime Sideways (2004), providing a sympathetic character amongst Chris's waster and Sharla's trailer trash whore. It's a shame that the plot can't match the performances, and although the story takes a back-seat to the mish-mash of human monsters, this really could have been a whole lot more. This is Coen Brothers territory, taking place in that sweaty world of the Deep South, full of smoky bars, rusty trailers, cowboy hats, motorbikes and overweight, middle-aged men in vests, a modern-day noir world ripe with possibilities, one that I feel has been slightly wasted here.
But if you've ever wondered if a film's climatic scene would ever involved a woman performing fellatio on a chicken drumstick, then here is your answer. Killer Joe's final frames will undoubtedly divide audiences between those who get director William Friedkin's intentions to take things to Jacobian absurdity, to those who will feel it as a silly contradiction to the film early, more subtle black humour. It's a splurge of extreme, uncomfortable violence with a sprinkling of farce, as the true psychological unbalance of Killer Joe becomes evident. Myself, I found it rather hilarious, and it managed to cement what is really an average film with only spatters of inspiration into my memory.
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