Friday, September 21, 2012

Killer Joe (Rhoades)

“Killer Joe” Is
A Dish Served Raw

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

How can you not love a movie that has the descriptive tag, “A Totally Twisted Deep-Fried Texas Redneck Trailer Park Murder Story”?
And who better to star in this film called “Killer Joe” than that totally twisted deep-fried Texan, Matthew McConaughey? As the titular Killer Joe, he’s hired to off the mother of a kid named Chris (Emile Hirsch) who’s in debt to a drug lord. You see, his mom has a $50,000 life insurance policy that pays off to his sister Dottie (Juno Temple). Since Chris doesn’t have the money to pay his hitman upfront, he turns over Dottie as collateral. That sets the stage for an unusual and wayward romance.
Emile Hirsch (he’s the kid from “Into the Wild” and “Speed Racer”) is properly panicky as Chris Smith. “I need $6,000 or some guys are gonna kill me,” he says to his dad.
The drug lord has threatened him: “I’m gonna wrap you up in electrician tape and bury you in a coffin about ten feet deep.”
So he decides to cash in on mom’s policy.  “You ever hear of Joe Cooper?” he tells his cooperative dad. “He’s a cop, a detective actually. He’s got a little business on the side … he kills people … He’ll do this right.”
Sister Dottie gets in on the act. “I heard you-all taking about killing mama,” she says. “I think it’s a good idea.” Pretty blonde Juno Temple is actually English (she played Queen Anne in “The three Musketeers”), but here you’d never know she wasn’t a good li’l Texas gal.
Matthew McConaughey (you last saw his bare chest in “Magic Mike”) gives a creepy performance as Killer Joe Cooper. Flicking his Lone Star cigarette lighter. Speaking of murder as laconically as praising a tuna casserole.
But there’s a fly in the casserole. Killer Joe requires a payment of $25,000 cash. No exceptions. That’s where Dottie comes in, being held by Joe as a “retainer.”
Turns out, he doesn’t want to give her back.
“My sister never did nothing to nobody. I can’t let you have her,” mutters Chris, finding a little backbone.
“The retainer’s for the money,” Joe growls. “I’m not leaving till I get my money.”
As dear ol’ dad says, “This is murder we’re talking about.”
Thomas Hayden Church and Gina Gershon add to the suspense as dad and mom. It’s hard to figure who’s on which side in this “Blood Simple” wannabe.
The film is based on a play by Pulitzer and Tony Award winner Tracy Letts. As directed by William Friedkin (he won an Oscar for “The French Connection”) we have a black comedy that’s kinkier than a roll of barbed wire.
Friedkin hasn’t lost his touch, perhaps his own deal with the devil after directing “The Exorcist,” considered by many critics (me among them) to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
As Friedkin explains “Killer Joe”: “Well it’s sort of loosely made based on the Cinderella story. Every little girl everywhere in the world dreams of becoming Cinderella some day, and being swept off her feet by Prince Charming. Taken out of her dire circumstances where her parents don’t understand her, and there’s an evil stepmother. To me, Killer Joe is a twist on that and this Cinderella finds her Prince Charming, but he happens to be a hired killer.”
A fairy tale? The film is sadistic at turns. Matthew McConaughey originally threw the script away, calling it “disgusting.” But he returned to it, curious how Friedkin would handle such a gruesome tale.
“It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea,” says Friedkin, “but those are the kinds of films that attract me as a viewer. I understand these characters. To me, this was a story about people who were trapped within their own dreams of escape. People would like to think these sort of things don’t happen, but they do all the time.”
“Killer Joe” is closer to home than we think. Although the movie’s set in East Texas, the idea came from a news release about a family in Florida: a father and son who killed the ex-wife and mother for a cheap insurance policy.
“The setting is not geographical,” warns Friedkin. “It’s accurate in the geography of the human soul, and what I like to refer to as ‘the crooked timber of humanity,’ which is an Immanuel Kant phrase that I find to be a wonderful description of all of us.”
The film has been called “brutal.” Friedkin shrugs at the description. It’s that as well as grasp-out-loud funny. He describes “Killer Joe” as “a dish best served raw.”
Like a tuna casserole perhaps.

1 comment:

rondrei said...

Not to disagree with a "real" film critic but to quote Jay Sherman (possibly the greatest film critic of all time) It Stinks!