If you insult me again, I will cut your face off and wear it over my own. Do you understand?
As I mentioned in the review for “The Day” there were some interesting trailers before the film on the Blu-Ray of “[REC] Genesis” and one was for a rather peculiar thriller called “Killer Joe”. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of it given it has one of biggest stars in Hollywood at the moment as it’s main star, as well as a decent back up cast, and looking online I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t heard of it due to it’s poor gross at the cinema, lack of votes on IMDB and not many hits on the trailer on Youtube. Based on that I decided that it would become my next review.
One of the reason I chose to watch this was that it seemed to be a completely different role in the interesting CV of actor, Matthew McConaughey. In recent years McConaughey has gone from just another actor to one of Hollywood’s most entertaining stars, and in the middle of his resurgence was this little film where he plays a sociopath. It adds to a CV that has seen a large variety of characters ever since his days where he played the same character over and over again in romantic comedies, and in my opinion this is the role where he shows the most range he has shown as an actor.
The one thing I would say is that you start watching “Killer Joe” and think you know what you’re about to see, but I can safely say that whatever you think is going to happen is far from what you will get.
Chris (Hirsch) has gone into significant financial trouble with a local loan shark and is facing being killed due to the debt. After a discussion with a friend, Chris discovers that his estranged mother has a life insurance policy that would pay out $50,000 in the event of her death.
After discussing it with his family, Chris secures the services of Joe (McConaughey), a cop who takes out assassination contracts in his spare time, to murder the mother. Due to Chris’ financial issues Joe insists on taking a retainer, Chris’ sister Dottie (Temple). Dottie is initially reluctant but soon develops feelings for Joe and the two develop a relationship.
Everything seems to be going to plan before Chris has a change of heart after he becomes uncomfortable with Joe and Dottie’s relationship, but by now it’s too late and Joe has already finished the job. What makes the situation even worse for Chris is that he finds out that the insurance money doesn’t go to him or Dottie, but instead his mother’s boyfriend.
So what makes it good?
Well let me start off by saying that McConaughey is absolutely fantastic as Joe. I would liken his performance and character to that of Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds”. I’ll be honest, I used to be in the large group of people that didn’t like McConaughey due to his previously lacklustre performances in many a film, but in recent years he has turned it around impressively and this performance is typical of recent years as he steals the show.
The character of Joe is exceptionally well written and you never truly know whether he is being genuine or not, and that is what makes a good character. It’s all well and good knowing exactly what a character is going to do, but unpredictability makes you want to see more and that is what I want to see in a film. For example, there is a scene where Chris is begging Joe not to go through with killing his mother that night, however, it turns out that Joe has already completed the assassination and that she is currently decomposing in the boot of his car.
Hirsch is also on par with his usual performances and his ability to play characters that you can’t figure out whether you like them or not, and even Temple is enjoyable in her role as the innocent, and somewhat simple Dottie. I must admit that I’m not much of a fan of Temple and before this I hadn’t really seen anything I’d enjoyed her in, but thankfully I can now say that that has changed and she plays the role well. Her performance in the final scene when Dottie is conflicted is intriguing and brings you right into what she is thinking and feeling, and that is something I’ve never had when watching a character portrayed by Temple.
It’s not just the cast that excel, but also the locations and whoever was in charge of finding places to film has gone a superb job. The film is visually stunning due to the impressive locations in which several scenes take place, such as Chris and Dottie having an argument on the train tracks, as you do, or when Chris is trying to escape those that are chasing him for money. Much like in “Zerophilia” the locations almost feel like characters themselves and you find yourself getting lost in them.
There are a lot of memorable scenes in the film, such as at the end when Joe forces Sharla into giving a blowjob style activity to a chicken leg that he’s holding next to his crotch. It is one of the most bizarre things that I have seen in a film in ages and it will stick in my head for a while, and therefore it has done what it was supposed to do, it has made a mark.
My one criticism of the film is something I normally heavily criticise other films for and that is a lack of character development. None of the characters are really any different when the film ends to when it starts and that is a shame. None seem to have been overly changed by the events of the film, but I suppose given that the mother was hated by pretty much all the characters explains that one.
“Killer Joe” was certainly one of the more unusual films I’ve seen. The scene with the chicken leg will stick with me for some time and that’s what you want in a film, something that you will remember. At the time of writing it’s less than 24 hours since I watched “10,000 Days” and I can’t remember virtually anything about it, that’s not a good thing. I want to be able to remember experiences of watching a film and “Killer Joe” did that brilliantly.
Now, again, I would recommend that you don’t go into the film expecting it to be 100 minutes full of action, intrigue and tension. There are lengthy gaps between things happening on a regular basis and for those of you that aren’t patient, I think that you will struggle to enjoy this. Some scenes last for around 15 minutes each, and the final scene lasts for close on 20 minutes, although it is done so well that your attention never wains if you just relax and try and enjoy it.