Killer Joe (18)
Friedkin’s modern re-telling of the Faustian tale
(Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple)
“How old are you?”, “12”, “So am I…”.
It was at precisely that moment in William Friedkin’s new film, Killer Joe, I knew things could only spiral out of control. Chris (Emile Hirsch) shows up in the middle of the night at his fathers trailer park home and he has a problem. He owes some people money. He suspects his mother, who has kicked him out of the house, of robbing him and concocts a plan to have her murdered in order that her life assurance policy can be collected and the family can live happily ever after. Sounds like a straightforward enough plan, you would think
Enter Detective Joe Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey. A local detective decked out in dark leathers, a 10 gallon hat and aviator glasses, he is a hired assassin. He is unimpressed by the offer that Chris and his father Ansel (ThomasHadenChurch) have laid out for him. Money up front or no deal. But by this stage the audience has guessed that Joe has taken a liking to young Dottie (JunoTemple), the sister and daughter of the boys. He’s willing to make a deal; his retainer until the money comes his way will be Dottie. The moral turning point in the film occurs when the boys agree. And they let Joe, a murderous but sharply intelligent psychopath into their home. They engage in a Faustian pact.
Joe effectively moves in, and you get the sense that he is there to test the family, to see how far he can stretch them into degradation until they break. It turns out they can be stretched to the point of snapping. It is following the murder of the mother that the film springs into life and spirals towards a violent end. And what ensues is a web of double-crossings, lies, violence and downright stupidity.
The defining relationship of the film is the one most unlikely, between Joe and young Dottie. They are the two characters that you are inevitably drawn towards and their on-screen interaction is notable. They study each other, one in all respects the Devil, and the other the picture of purity and innocence. It is a fascinating glance at the subject of underage love and the corruption of youth. Friedkin attempts to illustrate Dottie as the exceptional moral youth, the Gretchen, corrupted by the people around her; her drug dealer loud mouth brother, her idiotic indifferent father, and the psychopathic murdering figure of Joe.
The film is undoubtedly sewn with the needle of the Coen Brothers. The humor is dark and ironic. The character of Joe is reminiscent of the famous Anton in No Country For Old Men. The setting is the south and the characters are for the most part imbecilic. The southern drawl is the trademark. But the most defining similarity is the manner in which Friedkin brings it all to a close. Every decision made during the film inevitably leads the characters towards the last scene. And this is the trademark of the Coen Brothers.
It is McConaughey’s best performance in many years and he should stick to similar roles. As for the support acts,JunoTempleis radiant and gives an exceptional performance. For the performances and on-screen relationship of Joe and Dottie I would merit a viewing but Friedkin somewhat over-cooks the violence for me. You suspect that the graphic scenes of violence and underage sex are just for show and shock-factor.