KILLER JOE is a feverish modern noir about Chris Smith (Emile Hirsh), a desperate teenager who has racked up a considerable debt during his failed attempt at being a drug dealer. Out of options, he approaches his father about hiring a hit man to take out his deadbeat, absent mother who has a 50 thousand dollar life insurance policy. Part of the money will go to settle his debts and the other part will go to Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew Mcconaughey), a Dallas detective who “has a business on the side.” The only issue is that Killer Joe demands his payment up-front, or else he would need a retainer. That is where Chris’s little sister, Dottie (Juno Temple) comes in.
Directed by William Friedkin, the man who brought you THE EXORCIST, KILLER JOE is mostly dominated by the commanding presence of Matthew Mcconaughey whose icy blue eyes give the character he plays a chilling seriousness. Popularly thought of as a one-trick pony, Mcconaughey is proving that he is anything but. As an actor, he has had numerous incarnations over the years starting with the man-child stoner of DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993), to the sexy country boy of his run of romantic comedies in the early 2000′s, and to the spray-taned, stiff-necked lawyer in BERNIE (2012) — not to mention his roles in MAGIC MIKE, and the coming Jeff Nichols film, MUD. In this film especially, he plays a role that is much more restrained than his previous roles. Coldly practical, introverted and almost emotionless in the first act, Killer Joe Cooper is an unarguably bad guy, but he is a complicated and occasionally sympathetic one. He contrasts heavily with the family he works for who he sees as dramatic, loud, and uncivilized. Joe’s attempts at bringing the quiet order and control he is used to ultimately backfire and cause the film to descend into chaos culminating in the shocking finale.
The grittiness and disturbing nature of KILLER JOE cannot be underrated. In fact, the daringness of the film earned it a NC17 rating. However, if you have a stomach for shock-value, KILLER JOE is a fun and thrilling film.