MIFF 2012: Killer Joe
August 20th 2012 06:40
The work of playwright Tracy Letts, Killer Joe (2012) is deep-fried Southern goodness; a sleazy crime tale about an idiotic white trash father and son who hire a corrupt cop/hired killer to take out the fatherís ex-wife and race off with the insurance money to pay a rising debt. Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) and his useless lump of an old man Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) get much more than bargained for once Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) enters the fray. Joe takes a liking to Chrisís oddball sister Dottie (Juno Temple) and has certain demands that need to be fulfilled before the job is completed.
Ultimately itís a resurgent McConaughey who steals the show in William Friedkinís finest film in years, but the director has assembled a hardy cast of willing accomplices, each fitting their roles like jigsaw pieces. Kudos to the always hypnotic Gina Gershon as Anselís new love Sharla who cops the brunt of the violent attention as the plot converges in an inspired, hilarious 20 minute set-piece to round out proceedings. This sequence will have audiences gagging with laughter on the strange violent twists as well as a dark remembrance of the most recent Ė and possibly final Ė encounter with a juicy piece of fried chicken.
The screenplay adaptation by Letts is ripe with gleeful exaggeration but itís from here that most of the real fun is derived. We donít exactly root for any of these characters, but then itís almost impossible to hate them even as strange sexual proclivities and urge to kill mount. This second adaptation of Letts by Friedkin Ė the previous being 2006ís sinister underseen gem, Bug Ė is a gratuitous but blissful resurrection for the 76 year old director of iconic 70ís films like The Exorcist (1973) and The French Connection (1971). Though the scenario, boiled down to its basic parts, hardly seems a recipe for startling originality, a perfect blend of black humour, redneck melodrama and the horrific has been achieved by this second very fruitful collaboration of writer and director.
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