When Matthew McConaughey first struts into Killer Joe as the titular renegade-detective-for-hire, the editing dissects him as a carefully composed individual. Close-ups on various parts of his ensemble compartmentalize him, including the obligatory but encapsulating wide-brimmed hat. Long and black, it can consume and mask Joe’s face in the kind of shadow that comes to reign metaphorically over the film as a whole. Killer Joe is a darkly comic crime saga of dumb, unlikable people doing horrible things to each other; it’s a succulent bit of Southern shlock that affords plenty of opportunity for director William Friedkin and his talented cast to show just how hideous they can get. It’s more fun than it has any right to be, if you don’t mind despising every character on the screen.
Killer Joe is Friedkin’s second collaboration with playwright Tracy Letts, who penned the play the movie is adapted from as well as the screenplay for Friedkin’s 2007 film Bug. While Killer Joe is tonally different from that reality-questioning psychological thriller, it is similar in its claustrophobia, its lingering sense of evil, and its grounding in pulpy narratives driven by actors navigating the space between completely serious and mentally unhinged. After this second collaboration Friedkin and Letts feel like kindred spirits, respecting each other’s craft while bringing out the best in each other. Continue reading “Review: ‘Killer Joe’” »