Friday, 15 June 2012

SFF 2012: Killer Joe

William Friedkin is a maniac.

It's a sad fact that as they get older, many great directors seem to lose the fire that once made their more youthful works so incendiary. Well, if Killer Joe is any indication of Friedkin's current psyche, it's proof positive that once vital directors can not only rediscover that flame, but reignite it into an explosive bonfire.

At 77 years young, Friedkin has made a film that many of today's Young Turks would do well to take heed of. Where 2006's Bug showed great promise, and an obvious desire to continue to grow as an artist, Killer Joe is, without reservation, a resounding success.

It shares an obvious kinship with other southern redneck thrillers like the Coen's Blood Simple (there's some Wild At Heart/Blue Velvet era Lynch at play here too), yet not once does it feel recycled or predictable. Killer Joe is wholly it's own beast... and what a depraved, blood-thirsty beast it is. This is black humour so utterly dark, that the only way I can describe it is Nihilist Comedy.

Speaking of which, it is without a doubt the funniest movie I've seen in a long time. When I wasn't picking my jaw up off the ground, during one of it's many completely insane what-the-fuck moments, I was just laughing my ass off (as was the rest of the packed audience... the entire theatre was roaring with approval). Thomas Haden Church in particular is hysterically funny. I was in stitches at almost every line he delivered.

Matthew McConaughey is pretty amazing in this. "Creepy" doesn't begin to describe his performance, and he joins Willem Dafoe's Bobby Peru as one of the most vile, menacing redneck villains of all time. Gina Gershon blew my socks off too. People always talk about "gutsy" performances, but hers here is the real deal. There's a lengthy scene in this that I can only imagine was very unpleasant for her to perform. You'll know it when you see it.

Then there's the violence. And the sex. And the shocking, horribly uncomfortable, sexualised violence. And Gina Gershon's bush. Killer Joe pulls no punches, and it's not hard to see why the MPAA gave it an NC-17 rating for "graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality." Suffice it to say, you'll never look at KFC the same again (not that you should look at KFC anyway, it's gross).

The US distributor of this film should be applauded for refusing to bend over for the MPAA, choosing instead to support Friedkin's violent, nihilistic vision... no doubt at the expense of a larger take at the box office. Because of this, I encourage everyone to get out and support this one if it happens to come to your town. You won't regret it.

We just don't see many American movies like this one any more.


  1. Last comment noted and approved. I'll see this as soon as I'm able, thanks!

  2. It really comes with my highest recommendation Seth, I loved it.

  3. from the kfc comment alone i've got to see this. doubtful that it come's within 2 hours of me though.

    and to prove i'm not a robot one of my words is "fear"....

  4. Doug, I'd say that the only way most folks will get to see this is on dvd/blu.

  5. I'm intrigued! It's nice to see that not every filmmaker is catering to the PG-13 crowd.

  6. Barry, Killer Joe may not be the most sophisticated comedy around (although it is very smart), but in terms of content it's most assuredly a comedy for adults.

    By the way, I really like your blog, just added you to my roll.

  7. Someone I know saw this at TIFF and I've been anticipating its release ever since. Your non-spoilery review made me even all the more excited to see it. Can't wait.

  8. "If Killer Joe is any indication of Friedkin's current psyche, it's proof positive that once vital directors can not only rediscover that flame, but reignite it into an explosive bonfire." SOLD. I keep hearing good things about this, and after reading your review am dying to see it!

  9. I need to get off my ass and see this one, it sounds memorable, and it's kind of lynchian, so that alone has got me sold. But Friedkin, well, he's always been one of the greats. Looking forward to seeing this one!

  10. I loved this movie. It really was pretty funny at times. So much black humor and such a fucked up story. Matthew McConaughey is unbelievably good in this. All of the cast is great.