Thursday, 28 March 2013

Killer Joe, dir. William Friedkin, wr. Tracy Letts, st. Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church

Only after witnessing Killer Joe's deliciously vile resa dei conti will you get the smutty "totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story" tagline. Let's just say that student James Lally's recent post and accompanying picture regarding finding a wrinkled kidney in his KFC Wicked meal isn't the only reason I'm giving the Colonel's special recipe a wide berth. The violence on display here, not without its own controversy, is grim and savage. Additionally, the film's inky-black comedy irrationally makes it harder to justify when compared to, for instance, Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me, whose depiction of violence towards women is very much part of the film's genesis-of-trauma narrational fabric. Here, a wry comment on dysfunctional 'rednecks' as the poster puts it, seems more troubling in its usage of brutality. The tale of Killer Joe is classically familiar - a group undone by their own deceit and nascent inclination to screw one another over once an elixir (in this case, a cash sum) becomes available. The family's bumbling stupidity and ineptitude as they attempt to implement the plan to kill their absent mother/ex-wife for her Life Insurance plan becomes a no-brainer for 'Killer' Joe Cooper (McConaughey), a bent copper with a sideline in on-spec assassinations whom the family employ to do the deed. McConaughey plays Joe as an out-and-out hurricane of warped monstrousness, a complementary sparring partner for the likes of Max Cady. Making up the family, Hirsch and Hayden Church play the Son and Father, Chris and Ansel, and recent BAFTA Rising Star Award recipient Temple plays the daughter Dottie - a disturbing confusion of Southern coquettishness and childlike innocence - whom Joe claims as a 'retainer' in lieu of an up-front payment. Killer Joe is disturbing and compellingly unwholesome, but also rings out as a curiously hollow morality fable due to its extensive pervasion of voyeurism and unsettling tragi-comic persuasion.