Somewhere between featuring sex with a minor, Gina Gershon giving a chicken drumstick a blow job, and faces being broken in with a can of soup, Killer Joe emerges in all its trailer trash glory as a camp, crazy, unflinchingly wicked and destined cult classic. Audiences should strap themselves in for a wild and wonderful ride for this one, which is sure to drop jaws and bring laughs immediately after. The bastard love child of Heathers, Fargo and grindhouse film, Killer Joe still manages to be a unique rollercoaster that will appeal to the sadist in us all.
Based on the play of the same name and adapted by Tracy Letts, the script is unsurprisingly the star of the show. Anyone familiar with Letts work on stage or screen will know his weird, wacky style that still has a resonance of reality in great characters and sharp dialogue. Matthew McConaughey plays the titular Killer Joe, his best role in years, a crooked cop who as you may have guessed, is a killer. He gets hired by Chris (Emile Hirsch) to take out his Mum in order that they can claim the life insurance, but Chris, and his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) lack the upfront fee required. Luckily, or rather unluckily, Joe has developed a liking for pubescent Dottie, Juno Temple, and is willing to forgo the fee for her.
The cast her are across the board fantastic, aside from Emile Hirsch who somehow continues to have a career filled with roles beyond his limits as an actor. Juno Temple is in particular is revelatory as the young, sickly sweet and naïve Dottie. You’d never guess her English background having nailed the white trash accent, and her performance is an absolute knock out, surely signs of a future A-list star. Gina Gershon, best known for nearly ruining her career in Showgirls, is also brilliant as the trashy pizza waitress married to Ansel who has a few tricks up her sleeve.
Director William Friedkin, best known for directing The Exorcist, proves to be a director who knows exactly how to handle his material, bringing all the eclectic elements of this bizarre film together brilliantly. It would be easy for audiences to get off on the wrong foot with this film and be confused by its style, but those willing to roll with it are going to have an amazing time.
Killer Joe played out of competition at the Sydney Film Festival 2012