It took me two viewings of KILLER JOE to finally get around to writing a review. If you recall, it was on my Most Anticipated Films of 2012 post. The wait was well worth it because it just might be the sleeper of the year. It’s definitely my favorite film of the year, but DJANGO UNCHAINED hasn’t been released yet.
I expected to be a bit abashed by William Friedkin’s latest endeavor. I did not expect to be blown away as I have. Friedkin is responsible for gracing the world with the greatest of horror films, THE EXORCIST. It’s true he’s had some duds (BUG & THE HUNTED), but he’s also had some major hits (THE FRENCH CONNECTION & TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA). I am here to tell you that Friedkin is back with a vengeance.
This film captures the true, ruthless, essence of violence that the movie DRIVE wished it could do. Let me just say that McConaughey looks a lot cooler in those ostrich boots & 10 gal hat than Hey Girl looks in that ridiculous scorpion jacket & racing gloves. It also uses the theme of a “foiled plan” a la Coen Brothers, but with a twist. KILLER JOE is also the first NC17 film I’ve seen since SHOWGIRLS (also starring Gina Gershon). NC17 means they did not skimp on the nudity or bloodshed; neither of which ever feels misplaced or exaggerated. There's more nudity in this film than SHAME.
The subtleties are what really make the film. All the little Texas innuendos just fell together so effortlessly. I loved it all, from the shitty Busch Beer & Oklahoma jokes to the Gravedigger monster truck race. I also love how Rev Horton Heat (hometown hero & legend) is playing during the strip club scene. Kudos to the set designer for throwing in an old 90s pin-up pic of JGL. What also made this film extraordinary is the wonderful ensemble cast: Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church, and of course Matthew McConaughey.
I had never given Emile Hirsch much thought until my friend Joe E. praised his acting a couple years ago. Joe even watched SPEED RACER in the theater! This role really showcased his talents and I am now a fan. I've been raving about Juno Temple since I saw her in Greg Araki's KABOOM. You may recognize her in TDKR as Selina Kyle's roommate. Temple is so enigmatic and enchanting! She's going to be the next Chloe Sevigny, just you wait and see. Everyone really nailed the accent, but Temple's North Texas drawl is quit the accomplishment for a resident Brit. Gershon is a legend in her own right. Always the clever tongue-in-cheek femme fatale. She really plays up her bad side in this role. Thomas Haden Church may be one of the most underrated actors of our time. He's been in a ton of films, but often suffers from John C Reilly syndrome. He's not terribly handsome, so he's always cast in supporting roles which is unfortunate. I think he really has the presence to be a lead actor and he proves that in KILLER JOE. Church has excelled at comedic roles as well as dramatic roles. Hollywood needs to wake up and realize what an incredible actor they have on their hands.
I have always had a soft spot for McConaughey as a result of his role in DAZED & CONFUSED. People here in Austin (where he resides) are not unconvinced he is the sole embodiment of David Wooderson. He's a proud Longhorn (often seen on the sidelines at football games) and he likes to smoke weed while playing the bongos naked in Tarrytown. Everyone else is "getting older" while he "stays the same age!" So it was always really difficult for me to take McConaughey seriously. With films like SAHARA, MAGIC MIKE, and THE WEDDING PLANNER to his name, I had never considered his acting ability until recently. With roles in THE LINCOLN LAWYER, TROPIC THUNDER, BERNIE, and KILLER JOE, McConaughey has really proven himself. He walks a fine line of playing a character and playing himself which is probably his goal. I really think the year belongs to McConaughey as opposed to JGL, Tom Hardy, or even Jeremy Renner. He is a true Texas treasure!
My favorite part of the film is when Killer Joe says,
"Do you want me to wear your face?"It's such a chilling line, but also a nod to another native Texan, Leatherface. Currently, KILLER JOE is at the top of my favorites list and I cannot recommend you see it enough. When the credits rolled, Ross leaned over and said, "It's like they made a movie just for you." Yes they did.