A potent cocktail of mayhem, sex and betrayal, Killer Joe marks a glorious return for director William Friedkin. This ruthless and thoroughly enjoyable thriller marks the second collaboration between Friedkin and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Tracy Letts, following the 2006 film adaptation of Bug.
Chris is broke, desperate and not very bright — a classic dangerous combination. He barges into his father’s trailer with the only plan he can think of: murder. If they kill his mother, they can collect enough insurance money to settle his drug-dealing debts and escape their squalid little life. He even has a man to do the job: a cold, cowboy-styled Dallas detective named Joe Cooper, who moonlights as an assassin.
But Chris and his father can’t come up with the deposit Joe needs to do the deed, so Joe demands a retainer: Chris’ teenaged sister Dottie. Played to perfection by Juno Temple, Dottie is both virginal and vengeful. She eventually accepts her role as Joe’s bounty, but not without exacting her own price. As the plot lunges into more and more brutal territory, her bizarre relationship with the killer takes on a sweet but curdled tang.
Faithfully adapted from Letts’ 1993 debut play, Killer Joe is soaked with lurid, disturbing potential; some scenes go well beyond the bounds of good taste. But that is also its pleasure. In the hands of a master like Friedkin, McConaughey calibrates his performance exactly between seduction and menace. Hirsh, Temple and Church also rise to the challenge of Friedkin’s pulpy, film-noir fun, but it’s Gina Gershon, playing Chris’ volatile stepmom Sharla, who emerges as the heart of this film.
The French Connection and The Exorcist alone are enough to secure Friedkin’s reputation. But he has built a career beyond those seventies classics, probing time and again into the greed and desperation that fuel violence. It should come as no surprise that one of his finest works, Sorcerer, is a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear. Like that film, Killer Joe is remorseless, right up to its radical final scene. —TIFF
William Friedkin (born 29 August 1935) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter best known for directing The French Connection in 1972 and The Exorcist in 1973; for the former, he won the Academy Award for Best Director. His recent film, Bug (2006) won the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
After seeing the movie Citizen Kane as a boy, Friedkin became fascinated with movies and began working for WGN-TV immediately after high school. He eventually started his directorial career doing live television shows and documentaries, including The People vs. Paul Crump which won several awards and contributed to the commutation of Crump’s death sentence. As mentioned in Friedkin’s voice-over commentary on the DVD re-release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Friedkin also directed one of the last episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965, called “Off Season”. Hitchcock admonished Friedkin for not wearing a tie… read more
The great American director on his new movie, the classic The Exorcist and the controversial Cruising.
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Even recognizing that Killer Joe is no French Connection, many critics appreciate its “bruising, full-contact entertainment.”
William Friedkin’s Killer Joe proclaims itself as a “totally twisted, deep-fried Texas, redneck trailer park murder story,” but to be fair, I’m not sure that is even an accurate summation. Prior to… read review
Killer Joe pricks the viewer slowly, methodically, increasing with force and frequency until bleeding and in a panic we succumb to the depravity, mortally wounded and desperate to forget. There can… read review
Il ritorno alla macchina da presa del settantasettenne Friedkin avviene con l’adattamento che Tracy Letts fa del lavoro teatrale con cui esordì nel 1991: un piccolo noir quasi da camera, vincitore… read review