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Killer Joe

Killer Joe

Matthew Mcconaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church

Total Film

August 2012

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Director William Friedkin
Starring Matthew Mcconaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church
Cert 18

Rating ****

Oh, to be privy to the conversation in which Kentucky Fried Chicken said yes to their product being subjected to an unspeakable atrocity at (or in, to be accurate) the hands of Matthew McConaughey. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that Gina Gershon and a piece of the Colonel’s finest come out the worse for wear.

But a chicken leg isn’t the only thing that gets defiled in William Friedkin’s sordid adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Texas-set play. That would be the entire trailer-trash sub-strata of American society. They might well live in a trailer but calling them trash is too charitable. They are depraved, bottom-feeding scum.

The plot sees Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) hatch a plan to have his mother killed for her $50K life-insurance policy with help from his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), while his step-mum Sharla (Gershon) goes along with the scheme. They all believe that Chris’ sister Dottie (Juno Temple) is the nasty crone’s sole beneficiary.

And Dottie’s not just the stooge, she’s the guarantee, pimped out to Dallas ’tec and moonlighting hitman Killer Joe (McConaughey) until he gets his fee. If it sounds like time spent in unspeakably awful company, it is.

But you have to hand it to Friedkin: he’s uncompromising in his vision, wringing every ounce of grime and salaciousness he can out of Killer Joe’s plot and characters to create the dirtiest black comedy you’ll see for a long time.

The US ratings board has slapped Joe with an NC-17 for “graphic aberrant content”. Our guess? Friedkin is rolling in the aisles at their consternation. Perhaps he should send them a bucket of KFC.


Friedkin’s unflinching trailer-park noir features ugly characters, game performances, degradation and the obscene abuse of a chicken drumstick. Highly recommended, then.

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