Movie Review: KILLER JOE (2012) – McConaughey At His Creepy Best
Mathew McConaughey is weird. I mean that in the best possible way. I mean he’s a weird cat, who’s an amazing actor, who’s known for playing it safe. More recently I’m glad to see him step out of his comfort zone with roles like MAGIC MIKE, and others that aren’t cheesy Rom-Com leads. Thankfully, KILLER JOE is the furthest thing from that. Here is my Movie Review…
Blank Page Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
KILLER JOE is about a young man who’s in debt and owes money to some bad people. In order to clear his debt, he realizes his mother has an Insurance plan, with the beneficiary being his 12-year-old sister. So along with his father, they hire a full time cop and part time hit man to kill his mother, while pimping out his pre-teen sister who the Hitman has taken a liking to, as retainer until he’s paid. And this is all within the first 15 minutes of the movie.
The most disturbing part of KILLER JOE isn’t what’s happening, but it’s the characters’ casual and matter of fact reaction to these disturbingly horrid turns of events. Neither father, nor son protests to using their daughter and sister as currency to the killer. Neither of them even flinch at the plan of killing the mom for the insurance money. Everything happens just as casually as dinner conversation in the suburbs. The story obviously takes some unexpected twists and turns, however, the casual air about the film, as odd situations unfold, is probably more shocking than the events themself.
McConaughey plays the titular role of Joe Cooper, a cop who moonlights as a Killer for hire. When approached by the father-son duo, who doesn’t have his money in advance, Joe wants the innocent, and a li’l loopy 12-year-old sibling in exchange for his services. It’s sickening to watch the intimately graphic sequences between Joe’s obvious pedo-cop and this innocently naïve, and a little twisted pre-teen played wonderfully by Juno Temple. But that’s the allure of KILLER JOE. The uncomfortable moments that cause you to shift in your seat make the story that much more intense, accompanied by a dead silence that emphasizes what’s happening on screen so much more.
Emile Hirsh plays Chris, the hapless loser kid who owes money for drugs to some heavy hitters in town. As simple as the story may be, complications arise during this weird dynamic of a Hit man living in a Trailer with a Redneck family, under a mist of pre-teen romance. Hirsh showed his depth of range in Sean Penn’s INTO THE WILD, and it’s unfortunate he hasn’t done anything substantial since then, although KILLER JOE more than makes up for it.
The best part of this movie has to be McConaughey twisted performance of a completely fucked up guy who’s as bad a killer as he is a violent man with strange sexual fetishes. Some scenes are pretty graphic and gory to watch and considering this isn’t a Horror movie where gore is expected, the brutality is more impactful. It’s equally unnerving to see Joe, who for all intents and purposes is a fine Southern gentlemen, especially around the dinner table, break out into fits of rage, but still restraint himself with a chivalrous politeness.
Thomas Hayden Church plays the passive and helpless father who just goes along with everything as it happens. It was surprising to Gina Gershon here, and after McConaughey, she did steal the show with her performance. The usually portrayed as a hottie actress plays a more real housewife of the Trailer Park, type of role and it’s great. She stood out among the rest, and not for how she’s introduced in the movie. Juno Temple delivers a powerfully controversial performance of an attention starved and sexually naïve pre-teen, and she’s brilliant at it.
KILLER JOE is an amazingly disturbing movie. It’s a nice and simple story that highlights the performances of each actor that much more. Director William Friedkin does a great job of employing complete and utter silence during the more intense sequences, punctuating the awkwardness and uncomfortable nature of those scenes that much more. McConaughey doesn’t have much screen time, but he is ferocious in his delivery and completely dominates the screen in every frame that he’s in. It’s a must watch movie and a mind-boggling performance by McConaughey… dare I say, his best.