Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Some movies, some scenes, are just impossible to get out of your head. Add Killer Joe to that list for me. It is a dark, creepy, insanely funny and violent film that definitely earns the NC-17 rating that it was tagged with. It's the kind of film that has you laughing at some pretty horrific stuff, stuff that shouldn't be funny but is in that twisted, Pulp Fictionsort of a way.
But if you are easily offended or weak of heart, avoid Killer Joe. The title character is played by Matthew McConaughey, who is on quite the streak of juicy film roles following his performances in Magic Mike, Bernie and The Lincoln Lawyer. He is a Dallas sheriff who also happens to be a hitman-for-hire.
In what is the trashiest of white trash tales, Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a drug-dealing loser who hires Killer Joe to off his mother. He's overheard that she has a $50,000 life insurance policy and that he is the benefactor. That money would come in handy, since he owes a serious drug-dealer a big chunk of change.
Chris enlists his redneck, dead-beat dad (another perfect role for Thomas Haden Church) to help him, and dad is on-board with killing his ex. His new wife (it wouldn't be an NC-17 movie without Gina Gershon!) is also on-board with the idea. Only problem is, Killer Joe needs $25,000 up-front to do the deed. Instead of payment, Chris offers his young sister Dottie (Juno Temple) up to Killer Joe as a retainer, with promise of payment once the life insurance policy clears the bank.
With a sharp and witty opening half-hour, Killer Joe creates a bizarre comedic tone even as it deals with these awful Jerry Springer-esque characters. The sex, the violence, is all played for laughs, and shock. It excels at both.
Speaking of shock, the final scene in the film will definitely be the most talked about scene of the year. Without giving anything away (hey, this column is rated PG-13), let's just say it involves all of the major characters in the film, and a bucket of KFC. Gina Gershon will be called "fearless" for this performance, a word often given to women who go full-frontal on screen (as she does in Killer Joe). But the word "fearless" is best applied to her not for baring her body, but for her role in this final scene. As it progresses, it becomes weirder and weirder culminating with a gonzo ending that had people in the theater laughing and gasping simultaneously.
Without the comedy, Killer Joe would be an offensive, gratuitous mess of a movie. With the comedy, it's offensive and gratuitous, but also one of the most clever and entertaining films of the year.
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