03/06/18 Day 1: Killer Joe
An interesting, if not strange choice for my first blog post, I am starting my film review blog with the 2011 film Killer Joe, based on the Tracy Letts play from 1993. The only thing I knew going into this film was that it was set in Texas and that was it. I didn’t just like this film. I loved it. I checked the reviews after I watched it and was surprised to see they were fairly average. Many critics and audience members just found the disturbing scenes too disturbing to enjoy it as a whole but I thought it made the movie truly unique to anything I’ve seen before. I hadn’t heard of this film since yesterday and I really think more people should check it out.
First off, it's really funny. The film can go into some pretty gritty and dark moments but then the characters talk in this light-hearted conversational manner. One of my favourite scenes is just before Emile Hirsch’s character gets beat up, the local drug boss converses with him about a recent party he had that he wished the kid had gone to. It’s such trivial talk before a brutal beat down.
Something I will give the writer Tracy Letts considerable praise for is I had no real idea where the film was going to go until the film wanted me to and in my opinion, that's the sign of a well-made movie.
The promo poster is a piece of fried chicken in the shape of Texas and let me tell you, oh boy does fried chicken play a major role at the end of this, a leg to be exact.
The performances in this film are incredible. There are select few times when I got the feeling that his was an adaptation of a play but by the final act, I was completely absorbed in the action.
So Killer Joe mostly centres around a kid named Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) who hires a killer named Joe (love the title) played by Matthew McConaughey to murder his mother so he can get the life insurance money to pay for his drug debt. Writing that synopsis just then made me realize how the movie in some aspects resembles a trailer-trash version of Coen Brothers film Fargo. Both films begin with men getting involved with criminals they don’t fully understand only for their plans to backfire and the antagonist takes matters into their own hands. However, that is not where the likeness ends for me. A lot portion of the comedy in Fargo came from the hilarious pairing of friendly Midwesterners and sex, violence, profanity and all of that etc. In Killer Joe (which the play version came out 3 years prior) the difference is that these characters are no strangers to violence and crime so they talk about the darkest subject matter as though it were just a daily occurrence.
In regards to the performances, every actor knocks it out of the park. Emile Hirsch plays the wild 20 something redneck that gets involved with the wrong people on a constant basis. Juno Temple is mesmerising, playing a sort of Southern Lolita. Thomas Hayden Church is the father who’s clever enough to know how dumb he is and keeps fairly quiet. As for Gina Gershon, whom I haven’t really liked in a film since Bound, is incredible as the Step Mom and should have been nominated for her performance. Of course, the real star is Mathew McConaughey who in 2011, began the better chapters of his acting career in his “McConau-ssance” with great films like Bernie, The Lincoln Lawyer and to top it off, Magic Mike. To put into words, how good McConaughey is here, would not be an easy task. The best way I can put it, is that he plays the character like a Snake. You can sense from the very first scene with him that things are not going to end well being in a partnership with this man. The most controversial scenes all involve him and I found myself liking him the same way you might like the Heath Ledger’s Joker. Fun to watch in a film but absolutely the moment you consider him being real life person.
I read that the director of Killer Joe, William Friedkin, had to do on ensuring that the ending scenes weren't cut, and I’m glad they weren't. It's graphic and uncomfortable but it fits the tone of the film where you don't know whether to laugh or squirm or just sit in shock at what you’re seeing. I have a major respect for Friedkin refusing to have his film censored.
Killer Joe won’t be escaping my mind anytime soon. As for the Fried Chicken scene, if this film got more attention, would have become infamous. If I wasn’t already vegetarian, I would have been put off Fried Chicken all over again.