The pairing of writer Tracy Letts and director William Friedkin is about as good as peanut butter and chocolate, or maybe, say, sex and violence would be more apt. When Letts adapted his play Bug for the screen it lead to Friedkin’s 2007 comeback film of the same name, one of my favorites of that already legendary movie year. (No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James, Zodiac, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – it was a crazy-fucking-strong year, dear reader.) Now Letts and Friedkin have collaborated again on another adaptation of one of Letts’ plays, Killer Joe, and you better fucking believe it’s sure-as-shit gonna make the Nerd’s 2012 year end best list.
The story kicks off with Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) moving into his dad Ansel’s (Thomas Haden Church) trailer, his sister Dottie (Juno Temple) and stepmom Sharla (Gina Gershon) also currently residing there. Chris has been kicked out of his mom’s and owes a local gangster six grand, but he’s got a plan that he pitches to Ansel. If they hire Dallas detective/hitman Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother, Dottie is in line to collect fifty grand from a life insurance policy. Thing is, Joe requires twenty-five grand up front to do a hit, but once he spies the sexy Dottie he agrees to do the job if he can hold her as a retainer, and you better believe he’s not just holding the young girl’s hand.
It’s a great fucking premise that only gets more twisted and fucked up from there, the film truly earning its NC-17 rating with its graphic depictions of sex, violence and general perversity. Friedkin stages the action in ways that rarely make you think of the story as, well, stage-y, and the tension is always tight as can be until the fantastic, shocking and gloriously fucked-up finale. The film is also often hilarious, with Thomas Haden Church getting many of the choicest lines in the film as the slow-witted, weak-willed Ansel. Everybody in this stacked deck of a cast brings their fuckin’ A game but the clear stand-out is McConaughey, an actor who showed promise fifteen years ago but rarely took roles since that pushed him outside of his comfort zone. Playing the cool and cruel Cooper, he shows that the dude who played Buddy Deeds in Lone Star hasn’t gone away, he was just sleeping.
I could really rave about this fucker all night long but don’t want to risk spoiling some of the many surprises to be had in Killer Joe. Basically, if you’ve got a sick sense of humor and don’t have a hemorrhoid that’ll get too agitated from you sitting on the edge of your seat for ninety minutes, Killer Joe is the night at the movies your deviant ass deserves. It’s about the most Texas-sized redneck noir fucking hoot of a movie since Blood Simple and the Nerd for one has his fucking fingers crossed Letts and Friedkin team up again toot-fucking-sweet.