February 7, 2023

Killer Joe: Film Review

This sadistically dark, yet vibrant thriller from William Friedkin will leave you tense and shocked.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Killer Joe, a darkly mysterious man that will kill anyone for you if you are willing to pay the right price. Chris (Emile Hirsch) is in desperate need of some money after he suspects his mother of stealing his stash of cocaine. He owes some big boys in town and will be killed if he cannot find some cash fast. Since his mother supposedly stole the cocaine, Chris and his dad, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) decide to hire Killer Joe in order to kill his mum so that they can benefit from her life insurance policy, that they are sure Dottie (Juno Temple) is the benefiter of. This perfectly sinister plan, however, starts unravelling when Joe walks into the picture.

Joe is a darkly disturbed man as Dottie exclaims that his eyes hurt, suggesting that he is suffering from some kind of inner turmoil. Joe is no amateur when it comes to these sinister plans and ensures he has a retainer, in the form of Dottie, in case Chris cannot pay. Dottie, unaware that she has been offered by her father and brother, lives in the fantasy that she will fall in love and find her prince charming. This film, which is based on a play, is filtered through this moral framework of a fairytale, although it is somewhat darker than the usual story.

This films plays with the fundamental moral issues of worth, what a human life is worth, what ones family is worth and what ones virginity and dignity is worth. For Chris the moral question is whether to confess, to the drug gang that he owes, that he cannot and will not be able to give them their money and be killed himself, or to kill his own mother, a woman who is a drunk, lousy mother and who tried to kill Dottie when she was a baby. Whose life has more worth? For Chris his mother’s worth is the insurance payment. However, greed does not go unanswered in this film. Killer Joe a man of the law as well as a contract killer foregrounds the contradictions and paradoxes that we face in our lives. He is meant to up hold the law, yet he also ‘provides a service’ that consists of killing people.

With fantastic performances by Matthew and Juno, this film is a claustrophobic thriller set in confined spaces that create a tense yet darkly humorous atmosphere. The films ability to make the audience laugh at the extent of the violence that is being committed makes it phenomenal, yet at the same time troubling. This film plays with our moral framework that we live by and criticises how we have become a society obsessed with money, making us greedy consumerists.

This is one to watch if you have a strong stomach.

Written by Shirley Welton who also blogs at Beyond the Edges of the Frame

1 Comment on Killer Joe: Film Review

  1. Hmmmm. This film for me really pushes the limits of ‘comedy’ and you only have to hear the writer talk about the script to know that he didn’t think it was a comedy – which then really challenges those who find these frankly disturbing scenes humourous to identify why they find it funny.
    I found Hirsch’s performance annoying. He almost became a vacuum at the heart of the film, sucking any potential empathy or understanding for the whole fmaily away. Gershon and Haden Church were good but they and McCheesy were in ‘performing’ mode, treading the boards rather than the trailer park.
    On the plus side, I’m glad it wasn’t in 3D.

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