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.
Famed director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) returns to fine form. Killer Joe, directed by Friedlkin and based on a Tracy Letts story/screenplay, is a fine rendition of the old player getting played murder plot. A vignette of white trash playing out some worst case scenarios with, thankfully, much more photogenic role-players.
The film hangs on the roles of three central characters. The protagonist is a twenty-ish down and out loser named Chris played by Emile Hirsch. Hirsch brings a much grittier less Bohemian Johnny Depp to the table and it works here. His character is smart enough to know he's in deep and empty enough to unwittingly dig his hole ever deeper. His younger sister, Dottie, played by Juno Temple is an extremely unique character. She's both high functioning and almost mentally deficient in her total naiveté' which we are led to think is a mental quirk. She exudes a kind a helplessness with natural beauty that can draw one in. Juno Temple, a relatively new face to American audiences, is quite effective in her portrayal of this integral character. Finally, Matthew McConaughey is perfect in what is actually a supporting role in spite of being the the title character, Killer Joe. McConaughey is in his best element where he is reined in from Hollywood bombast instead dripping with a sleazy lawman/killer persona. These three characters are this movie aptly supported by Gershon's conniving Sharla and Thomas Hayden Church's witless Ansel.
Killer Joe has a down and dirty indie feel which is totally right. The cinematography is immediate and not artsy in any way as if you are clearly seeing something you wish wasn't happening. The final quarter ramps up with a tour 'de force of the macabre supplied by McConaughey's character and taken home with a kind of surprise loose-end "wham-bam" finale. All in all, this really works and separates itself from more typical murder stories, recommended.
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