ByTowne ByTowne Cinema
325 Rideau St. Ottawa K1N 5Y4
Info Line: (613) 789-FILM
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Directed by William Friedkin, Killer Joe is based on the play by Tracy Letts and stars Emile Hirsch as Chris, a trailer trash ne’er-do-well who gets into heavy debt and persuades his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), to hire a hitman to kill his ex-wife for the insurance money. With Chris’ little sister Dottie (Juno Temple) set as the beneficiary, Ansel duly agrees, but not before his vampish new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) has demanded her cut. However, when Chris and Ansel hire killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey), they’re unable to raise the money to pay him up front. So Joe demands Dottie as his retainer and effectively moves into the trailer in order to be with her.
The performances are terrific, particularly McConaughey, who plays on his usual smooth talking charm to extremely chilling effect. Temple is equally good as the seemingly innocent Dottie, whose burgeoning sexuality is exploited by pretty much everyone in the film; her scenes with McConaughey are both shocking and disturbing to watch. There’s also strong support from both Hirsch (scrappy, motor-mouthed) and Haden Church (taking his usual laid back persona to an amusing extreme), while Gina Gershon is superb as Sharla, particularly in the final act.
Friedkin maintains tight control of the material throughout, culminating in a terrifically tense and powerfully shocking final act that takes place around the dinner table: one particularly memorable moment involves Joe, Sharla and a piece of fried chicken, in an extremely dark, horrifically uncomfortable and deeply weird scene that’s surely headed for cult status.
While almost certainly not to everyone’s taste, Killer Joe is an enjoyably pulpy and gleefully twisted thriller with a strong script and terrific performances from Matthew McConaughey and Juno Temple. One thing’s for certain – you’ll never look at a piece of fried chicken the same way again.
– Matthew Turner, ViewLondon
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