“Killer Joe”

Susan Granger’s review of “Killer Joe” (LD Entertainment)


    Like coming across a Texas car wreck, this sleazy, preposterous picture is so disgustingly amoral and awful that you can’t take your eyes away from it.  Rated NC-17 for hardcore human depravity, it has graphic disturbing content involving violence, sexuality and brutality – and that’s putting it mildly.

    When his slovenly mother steals a stash belonging to her 22 year-old gambling, drug addict/dealer son, Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) has to come up with the money quickly – or he’s dead.  So he goes to the trailer-park to tell his dim-witted mechanic father, Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church), who is now married to trashy Sharla (Gina Gershon). They hatch up a plan to hire a ‘hit man’ to whack her and then collect the life-insurance money to cover the debt. That’s where sinister, smooth-stalking Dallas cop Joe Cooper (a.k.a. Killer Joe) swaggers in. The Smiths don’t have cash for a down-payment, so Joe demands a retainer: the Smiths’ virginal teenage daughter, Dottie (Juno Temple). After that, everything that can go wrong – does.

    Before Tracy Letts won a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for “August Osage County,” he wrote “Killer Joe,” a Southern Gothic black comedy, which he’s now adapted for the screen. Shamefully self-indulgent director William Friedkin (“The French Connection,” “The Exorcist”) seems to relish the overtly misogynistic, lewd scenes in which Sharla and Dottie are sadistically and violently degraded.

    Dressed in black – from cowboy hat to boots – Matthew McConaughey delivers a laconic, snake-like performance that’s at the opposite end of likeability spectrum from his recent “Magic Mike” romp. In case you’re curious, in preparation for her now-infamous ‘crotch’ shot, Gina Gershon, who stripped in “Showgirls,” went shopping for a hairy merkin – a wig for a woman’s private parts – which she said covered her nudity as if she were wearing a bikini. But that’s probably more than you wanted to know.

    On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Killer Joe” is a dark, evil, vile and brutal 3, a bloody mess that’s only saved from oblivion by Matthew McConaughey’s impressively repellent acting.