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.
Director William Friedkin was shocked when he found out that the film was given the NC-17 rating and refused to alter the film for fear that any cut or edit would take away from the filthiness of the film. It was released theatrically with the NC-17 rating later, surrendering the rating for video release as "The Unrated Director's Cut". An edited R rated version was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in order for certain retailers to carry the film. See more »
When Sharla is leafing through the photos, she's is using both hands in the close-up and the photos are loose. In the next view she is holding the packet of photos in one hand and the phone with the other. See more »
The unrated DVD retains the MPAA's NC-17 graphic at the end, although the rating was surrendered. See more »
The USA/Canada DVD is available in two versions, one the original NC-17 rated version (labeled as Unrated) and the other an R-Rated version. The R-Rated version has the following cuts:
1:25:27 (10.5 sec. cut) Sharla starts sucking at the chicken leg. Joe moans "Easy...easy."
1:25:42 (5.5 sec. cut) A cut to Carla, who is still sucking the chicken leg, is missing. The R-Rated shows the shot of Joe without interruption, lengthening it insignificantly.
1:25:49 (2.5 sec. cut) Joe asks Ansel in this shot "What do you think?". The R-Rated Version features the question from the off in the following shot of Ansel.
1:26:03 (Alternate Shot) The R-Rated shows Joe talking in a longer shot of himself and then an alternative shot of Ansel sitting down on the bench. The original features two shots from further away showing Sharla during her forced blow job. The Unrated Version runs a bit longer.
1:26:34 (11 sec. cut) The shot of Ansel can be seen a moment longer. Joe then asks twice: "Reach around and grab my ass!". Sharla obeys.
1:26:56 (Alternate Shot (No time difference)) The R-Rated Version mainly shows the shot of Joe longer and the alternative shot of Ansel before the shot from further away can be seen for a short time. The latter can be seen the whole time in the Unrated Version.
1:27:20 (Alternate Shot) The R-Rated Version shows the previous and following shots of Joe longer/earlier, whereas the Unrated cuts to a close-up of Sharla complying with Joe's demands and starting to moan.
1:37:30 (1 sec. cut) The shot starts a bit earlier with an additional (first) blow of the can against Chris' head.
1:37:33 (1.5 sec.) Another blow is missing.
1:37:41 (4.5 sec.) Joe beats Chris with the can three more times against the head and in the face, Chris spits out blood. Additional shot of Dottie screaming "Oh God!".
1:42:47 (No time difference) The MPAA overlays at the end differ display the different rating for the two versions.
William Friedkin's career has been up and down most of his career, I guess it's because he refuses to sell-out and go commercial. His most 'Hollywood' film to date has been The Hunted, from 2003, but even that was unusually muted for a film of that type.
His latest effort is yet another adaptation of a Tracy Lett's play (that's a male Tracy), after Bug in 2006, and is choc full of warped, in-your-face sexuality, bloody violence, and humor so dark only the most depraved viewers will find funny. In fact, it's more like a David Cronenberg film than Friedkin.
If you've seen movies like The Acid House, or the 1998 Todd Solondz face-punch Happiness and find them amusing through the gaps in your fingers then you'll be sick enough to fully enjoy Killer Joe.
Matthew McConaughey plays Joe Cooper, an unorthodox Dallas police detective who is 'hired' by petty drug dealer Emile Hirsch to whack his old lady and thus benefit from an insurance policy with his deadbeat dad (Thomas Haden Church in a wonderful performance) and virginal, oddball sister Dottie (Juno Temple). Only they cannot raise the money to pay Joe so he agrees to spend some quality time with Dottie until the policy pays off in waiver of his upfront fee.
It reminded me a lot of an Oliver Stone film called U-Turn, another Texas-based psycho-sexual murder plot filled with heat-waves and perpetual distrust, but was much more enjoyable. The perverse sexuality and dark humor really appeal to a mind like mine, and McConaughey's performance atones for his crimes in various awful romcoms. Joe is a supremely weird but mesmerising character. You never really know what he's going to do next but you can still see the cogs turning as he evaluates every new plot twist. Plus it has full-frontal nudity from Gina Gershon and Juno Temple, which I absolutely do not disagree with.
The film has been slapped with the dreaded NC-17 in the US, which massively limits the amount of theatres that will be showing it. But, indirectly, it will only turn it into a cult film, and thus a bigger success with its intended audience than it otherwise might have been.
I highly recommend that you a part of that audience, it's as far from Hollywood as Friedkin has gotten since Cruising in 1980. Even at the age of 76, he's still on top form.
Edit: I just remembered that U-Turn is actually set in Arizona.
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