Killer Joe

I know you were dancing in Showgirls, but let's dance with some KFC!

Matthew McConaughey got nude in Magic Mike. He now gets nude in Killer Joe. Next month, we see his butt crack in Plumber Pete.

Okay, that last line isn’t really a movie. And Killer Joe isn’t really much of a movie, either. That’s a shame, because there are some great scenes and amazing talent behind it.

There’s cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Natural, Being There, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter); directing legend William Friedkin.

I frickin didn’t even know he was still alive! This is the man that gave us The French Connection and The Exorcist in the ‘70s. He did Bug with the same playwrite – Tracy Letts – that did this southern fried mess of a movie.

It’s usually Quentin Tarantino that does movies like this, and I always end up thinking they would’ve been perfect if done by the Coen brothers.

Here’s the premise: A low-level drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) has a mother that stole his coke. He also lose a grand at the track. The bigger drug dealer (Marc Macauly) is going to kill him if the money isn’t returned. Hirsch, who likes his parents less than he did in Into the Wild, decides he’ll hire a hitman to kill his mom. She has a $50,000 life insurance policy that goes to the younger sister. That sister is played by Juno Temple, a British actress doing a southern accent. This performance will make her a star, but…the character is poorly written. She’s a virgin, and isn’t very smart. Yet other times, she seems to be the smartest in the room; and also seems to enjoy having sex.

I wasn’t sure what they were trying to do with this character. It didn’t make a lot of sense.

The father is played well by Thomas Haden Church, doing his Sideways shtick well enough.

Killer Joe is the hitman, wearing the standard contract killer attire – all black, including cowboy hat. His character also makes little sense. He’s a Dallas cop, who kills people on the side. I’m confused as to why he has all these rules, that insure he’ll get paid and not caught – yet he seems to break all of those and also does careless things. He leaves DNA around the crime scene, spends the night with an underage girl, and he lets Hirsch just show up at his work (a police station) limping, bruised and bloody…and yelling. I guess other officers just ignore things like that.

Oh, and get this. Since they can’t pay the Joe upfront, he decides he’ll take a retainer. He’ll retain her – the younger sister.

Everyone in the family agrees with this, including – the sister. Yet earlier in the movie, Hirsch seemed really concerned with how his little sister will be raised.

Now, many are going to have problems even trying to watch such harsh subject matter. My problem was that it’s exploitation; gratuitous garbage. Friedkin has said in interviews he refused to edit it for an R rating (it’s NC 17). Yet, those scenes are often distracting and not necessary. One example would be Gina Gershon not wearing pants as she opens the door to the trailer. Now, don’t get me wrong…I loved seeing her nude in Bound (an amazing film). Yet in this, it didn’t make sense. Much of the film didn’t, though. It wanted to be shocking for the sake of being shocking.

All these characters come across as caricatures and that’s a shame, considering the cast is strong.

I’m not sure why the director felt we can roll around in the muck of this film and just enjoy the ride. Sure, you’re never bored watching it. You have nobody to root for as you watch a bunch of idiots trying to get things done. Even characters that are supposedly smart, do stupid things (including an unseen boyfriend of Gershon).

It basically becomes over-the-top parody midway through, and you wonder what the point of it all is.

Even when I sat there thinking about this young girl having an “affair” with Killer Joe, I thought of the better film Towelhead. Aaron Eckhart seduces a teenager neighbor, and it’s rather graphic and hard to watch. Yet you can see brilliance in how that slimeball manipulated a naïve teenager. In Killer Joe, McConaughey starts out charming, but has this ridiculous seduction speech that quickly becomes rape.

I have to admit that when one woman in this is punched in the nose, you’ll cheer as much as you did when Charlotte Rampling got punched by Paul Newman in The Verdict.

And the way Gershon eats Kentucky Fried Chicken…well…who hasn’t? That stuff is delicious.

This movie gets 1 ½ stars out of 5, and because I was expecting so much more it’s on my list of most disappointing movies of the year.