Monday, August 27, 2012

Killer Joe

William Friedkin is back, reprising his work with Bug playwright Tracy Letts, in this malignant little tumor of a film called Killer Joe.

Story: Chris is thrown out of his mother's house (after she steals and sells his drugs), and he runs to his sister Dottie's trailer, but she's a little weird (momma may have caused some brain damage to her trying to smother her as a baby, or maybe that never happened) and sleeps heavy, so he goes next door to his dad Ansel's trailer, where the well-worn Sharla snipes at him while he explains to his (broke) Dad that if he doesn't come up with the money he'll be killed by the drug dealers he owes.

Chris has a plan, however. He's learned that his mother has an insurance policy and that Dottie is the beneficiary. And he knows of a guy named Killer Joe—a cop who has a sideline knocking people off for cash. Since they don't have the money up front, Killer Joe's gonna write 'em off, until he gets a load of the winsome Dottie, whom he takes as a retainer.

So, what we have is a tightly constructed, excellently shot and acted movie about people with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. It's actually pretty funny, particularly at first. It gets increasingly violent and darker and darker as the story progresses, till the third act is utterly submerged in gore and sexual humiliation.

I kinda liked it.

The Boy said he felt they were trying to hard to be shocking and he just got bored toward the end.

It's NC-17 and that's actually warranted. Don't believe people who say US censors are uptight.

Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple are great as the brother and sister, and I don't really know them from anything else. (Hirsch apparently was Speed Racer but, seriously, who saw that?) Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church are also very good. But it's Matthew McConnaughey drives the story forward as the psychotic, sexual deviant who passes for the movie's hero.

Or maybe it's Dottie who's supposed to be the hero. This isn't really a film about a character's journey and personal growth.

I've heard that Ethan Coen liked this, which doesn't surprise me, since it bears a striking resemblance to Blood Simple, the Coen brothers first film. And as a machine, it's a well-oiled one. Also, like some of the Coen brothers' flick, it's a story about some profoundly stupid people.

But if the Coen brothers are accused of being cynical or detached from their characters, there's positive revulsion in this movie. The only human characteristics these people have are parodic vestiges of familial obligation.

Also, the ending's kind of a cop-out.

To say it's not for everyone doesn't do it justice. Much like Bug, it's for hardly anyone. And Bug's main characters were extremely sympathetic. Not so here. The movie disabuses you of any affection you might have for the characters quickly and often.

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