Killer Joe (2011) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • 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.

  • Chris Smith (played by Emile Hirsch) is in a bind. He owes a loan-shark a fair bit of money, and the man has threatened to kill him if he does not produce the money within a few days. He does not have the money. He strikes upon a get-rich-quick plan: have his estranged mother killed and collect on the insurance money. He involves his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), who buys into the deal for a share of the profit (him and Chris' mother are divorced and don't see eye-to-eye, so it wasn't a tough sell). Ansel then involves his 2nd wife, Sharla (Gina Gershon) and, due to her finding out about the plan, his daughter, Chris' sister, Dottie (Juno Temple). They hire a professional killer (who happens to also be a cop), "Killer Joe" Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). When they cannot pay him upfront, they reach an unusual deal on how to retain his services. This complicates matters, a lot.

  • When a debt puts a young man's life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film opens with drug dealer Chris Smith arriving at a trailer on a late rainy night. He pounds on the door until Sharla, his step mom, answers. Chris is there to see his father Ansel. Sharla and Chris argue and there is a small physical confrontation. Then Ansel and Chris get into it. Dottie, Chris' young sister, listens to the commotion from her bedroom.

    Sooner or later, Chris and Ansel leave the trailer and go to the strip club. Chris tells Ansel that he owes money to some people who will kill him if he doesn't pay. He talks about his mom, Adele, who has a fifty thousand dollar life insurance policy. Chris then tells Ansel about a police detective named Joe Cooper, who moonlights as a hitman. In the event of Adele's death, all the money would go to Dottie. Ansel needs some convincing, so the two get to talking about Adele and how badly she treats everyone around her, including her new boyfriend Rex. Ansel agrees.

    Joe Cooper arrives at the trailer one morning to meet Chris. Instead, he meets Dottie and the two make small talk. Joe tells a story about a man who lit his genitals on fire to teach his girlfriend a lesson about cheating on him. Dottie tells a story about how her mom Adele tried to kill her once when she was a baby. The phone rings: it's Chris for Joe. Chris tells Joe to meet him at an abandoned building. Joe tells Chris not to change plans on him again.

    Joe, with the assistance of Dottie, reaches the building where Chris and Ansel are. Inside this building, Joe instructs Chris and Ansel on his rules for if he was to kill Adele for them. Joe names his price: twenty-five thousand dollars in advance. Chris says he can't give Joe the money prior to the murder but he can give him a cut of the life insurance. Joe repeats: "No exceptions."

    Joe is about to leave when notices Dottie outside happily spinning around in front of a church. Joe then tells Chris that they never discussed the possibility of a retainer. Then he leaves. Ansel doesn't understand and Chris has to spell it out for him: Joe wants Dottie until he can be paid.

    The movie shifts to Sharla, who works at a run down pizza parlor. She is talking on the phone with an unknown man. She holds in her hand naked pictures of this man and jokes that his face can't be seen in them. Dottie appears behind her and asks for some money for dinner, Sharla pretends the person the phone was one of her old friends. She hangs up and goes to sit with Dottie. Sharla tells her that there will be a guest for dinner that night. Dottie knows its Joe. Ansel arrives and he tells Dottie he's gonna give her some money so she can buy something nice to wear. Then, he and Sharla talk privately. Sharla's mad at Ansel because he as yet to tell Dottie that she and Joe will be the only ones at the trailer.

    That night, when Dottie finds out the situation, she acts very strange and locks herself in her room. Joe arrives and doesn't get angry. He tells her that she doesn't have to come out of her room if she doesn't want to. After Joe tells another story, Dottie comes out of her room and the two have dinner. Dottie says that she had a dress she was gonna wear, but she decided against it. Joe said he would've loved to see it. At a certain point in the evening, Joe asked Dottie to put on the dress in front of him. Soon after that, the two have sex. Chris, from outside, sees the lights in the trailer go out.

    In another part of town, the same night, a yellow sports car is parked at a cheap motel. A man in a cowboy hat knocks on the door to one of the rooms. Sharla answers and lets the man in.

    Shift to the daytime. Chris is betting on some horses for money. He loses. As he walks outside, two big men stand in front of him. He starts to run away but he doesn't get very far and the two big men, on motorcycles, run him down. A big truck pulls up and Digger Soames gets out. This is the man Chris owes money to. Digger tells Chris that he better pay him soon. Digger leaves and the two big men beat Chris to a pulp.

    Chris has a conversation with Joe the next day. He doesn't want Joe around Dottie anymore. Joe says all Chris has to do is say the word and he will leave right now. Chris still wants his mom dead.

    That night, at the police station, Killer Joe gets ready. He grabs his gun, his gloves, his hat and walks outside. Chris is waiting for him and tells him he has second thoughts about going through with the murder. Joe tells Chris to get in his car.

    The two drive along ways to a closed restaurant. Joe goes to the trunk of his car and opens it. Chris looks inside... Adele's body is lying there. Joe has already killed her. Chris helps Joe dispose of the body in a way that makes it look like an accident.

    Days pass. Ansel and Sharla go to collect the insurance money while Dottie and Chris wait in the restaurant. When Sharla returns to the restaurant, she and Ansel are extremely mad.

    The family walks down the street. Ansel pushes Chris up against the wall and tells him that Dottie is not the beneficiary of the $50,000. Rex, Adele's boyfriend is the beneficiary. It is here where it is revealed that Rex is not only the one that told Chris about the life insurance, but is also the one who told Chris about Killer Joe. Chris, having nothing to pay either Digger or Killer Joe, decides to flee the country. He wants Dottie to go with him to Peru, but she says she wants to see Joe first.

    The yellow sports car drives down the street. It is pulled over by Killer Joe's police car. The driver of the sports car gets out. Here, it is revealed that the man in the cowboy hat (from the motel) is Rex.

    That night, Sharla and Ansel return to the trailer with some KFC. Joe is there and asks to have a chicken leg. Joe approaches Sharla and asks her about Rex. She says she doesn't really know him. Joe asks if she was gonna get a cut of the money. Ansel says he was gonna let her have a cut cause Sharla is his wife. Through some smart interrogation and trickery, Joe gets Sharla to reveal that life insurance was actually worth $100,000. Because Adele's death was ruled an accident, the life insurance doubles. Sharla was the only one who knew that out of the family. Joe then shows Ansel two things: a check made out to Rex for 100 grand, and the naked pictures of Rex that Sharla had on her person.

    In the most talked about scene of the movie, Joe punches Sharla, breaking her nose. Then he takes the chicken leg from KFC and lowers it in front of his waist. He forces Sharla to suck on the leg like it is his member. As this happens Joe says that since he will not be paid in cash, the retainer, Dottie, belongs to him now. He says he knows Chris is going to come over to attempt to take Dottie with him. Killer Joe states that "If this family allows Chris to leave this trailer tonight, I'll slaughter all of you like pigs."

    In the film's finale, Chris returns to the trailer. Dottie, Ansel, Sharla, and Joe all wait for him at the dinner table. Chris sits down and everyone eats together for a short while. Then, Joe stands and announces that Dottie has agreed to marry him. Chris is anything but happy. He tells Joe he can't let him have Dottie. Chris tells Dottie to go get her stuff. Joe tells Dottie to stay seated. Chris pulls out a gun and points it at Joe. Sharla grabs a knife from the table and stabs Chris in the shoulder. Joe tackles Chris and the gun slides in front of Dottie.

    Joe holds Chris in front of the refrigerator and bashes his face in with a can of pumpkin filling. Ansel grabs Chris legs so he can't run away. Sharla bashes a beer bottle of Chris' head. Everyone has taken their eyes off of Dottie, who has finally snapped. She picks up the gun and shoots it all over hell. Joe, Ansel, and Sharla, all go motionless.

    Dottie fires first at Chris, shooting him in the chest. He falls dead. Then Dottie shoots Ansel in the stomach, he screams in pain as he goes to his knees. Dottie then aims at Joe. Joe looks at her and asks her to put the gun down. She responds, "I'm gonna have a baby." She puts her finger on the trigger again.

    The final shot of the film is Killer Joe smiling in excitement.

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