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Killer Joe (2011)

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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.


William Friedkin


Tracy Letts (screenplay), Tracy Letts (play)
4,024 ( 653)
9 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Matthew McConaughey ... Killer Joe Cooper
Emile Hirsch ... Chris Smith
Juno Temple ... Dottie Smith
Thomas Haden Church ... Ansel Smith
Gina Gershon ... Sharla Smith
Marc Macaulay ... Digger Soames
Gralen Bryant Banks ... Pizza Patron (as Graylen Banks)
Carol Sutton ... Saleslady
Danny Epper ... G-Man
Jeff Galpin ... Biker Thug
Scott A. Martin ... Pizza Manager (as Scott Martin)
Gregory C. Bachaud Gregory C. Bachaud ... Filpatrick
Charley Vance ... Preacher


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.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Murder never tasted so good. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong and disturbing violence, sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site





Release Date:

29 June 2012 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Killer Joe: A Twisted Redneck Trailer Park Murder Story See more »

Filming Locations:

Louisiana, USA See more »


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$37,864, 29 July 2012, Limited Release

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(original) | (cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Killer Joe was the first play Tracy Letts wrote, in 1991. See more »


When Chris returns home after Digger's thugs beat him up, his teeth are perfectly white, yet in the close-up shot, they are all bloody and messed up. See more »


Chris Smith: Hi Digger.
Digger Soames: How ya been, boy?
Chris Smith: Pretty good, how about yourself?
Digger Soames: Oh, fair to middling. Blood pressure.
Chris Smith: You taking medicine?
Digger Soames: Yeah, all that. No salt, low stress. Course, Amy keeps making that fried chicken. You know I can't resist it.
Chris Smith: How is Amy?
Digger Soames: Well, she's all busted up right at the moment. You remember Dumpling, that old bluetick we had?
Chris Smith: Yeah, sure, Dumpling.
Digger Soames: Yeah, well, we had to put him to sleep yesterday morning.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The unrated DVD retains the MPAA's NC-17 graphic at the end, although the rating was surrendered. See more »

Alternate Versions

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.
See more »


Referenced in Honest Trailers: Showgirls (2018) See more »


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Written and performed by Jamey Johnson
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Simple plot but excellent group of characters.
1 July 2012 | by blythyboySee all my reviews

To start with, I'm a bit of a William Friedkin fan. My all time favourite film is The Exorcist and any other film I see from him gets me slightly worried because I know he has a pretty sketchy body of work.

So I saw the obvious other Friedkin choice and that was The French Connection which I thought was really good. I saw his first play adaptation, Bug, which I thought was pretty special and I started to realise how much he pushes the performances of the actors and this is clearly his priority over any other aspect of film making. Yes it has to be visually appealing but the subject matter of his work is always reliant on performances.

So Killer Joe is another adaptation of a play by Tracy Letts and again has to rely on strong characters with convincing effort to make it come to life. Thankfully Killer Joe delivers on this. In fact, if it wasn't for William Friedkin's ability to add extreme pressure onto the actors by limiting the shooting to two takes per scene, I honestly think it would have lost it's attraction pretty quickly.

The film takes you into the bowels of low-life Texas and really emphasizes the grim reality of life for some unfortunate families. It was surprising to discover a black comedy breeze come over the film and it did come at you pretty surprisingly (especially scenes including Thomas Haden-Church). The cinematography improved on that point by having close up shots of Joe Cooper preparing himself for his first on-screen appearance to the world and blasting mere seconds of TV trash full screen to the audience to make a clear point on red-necks having a low attention span. All of this made me chuckle but it still kept me interested by providing a simple enough plot and letting the great performances carry it along.

Of course there has been a lot of talk regarding the late scenes of the film. Joe's well spoken manner and calm demeanour are pushed to the edge and his rage is unleashed like a shaken coke can that's been opened up. It came as a real shock to me and the suspense was unbearable enough to make your heart pound. Whichever way  it makes you feel at the end, I'm sure you would leave the characters behind knowing it's ended in a really good way and is sure to be discussed well after the credits.

All in all, it's a good piece of work. The effort from the actors far outweigh the visuals which is perfectly fine for a story like this. I'm pretty sure Killer Joe is going to be a reasonable success at the box office and will certainly grab a lot attention when the eventual DVD release comes our way.

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