First Look – William Friedkin’s Killer Joe

Welcome back William Friedkin and Matthew McConaughey - both missing in action, it seems, for some years now - with the terribly funny Killer Joe. Typically, for the director of transgressive genre pieces like The Exorcist and Cruising, one of the first things we see here is Gina Gershon’s lower half, naked. “It’s a bit distracting, your bush in my face,” complains her step-son, Chris (Emile Hirsch).

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Welcome back William Friedkin and Matthew McConaughey – both missing in action, it seems, for some years now – with the terribly funny Killer Joe. Typically, for the director of transgressive genre pieces like The Exorcist and Cruising, one of the first things we see here is Gina Gershon’s lower half, naked. “It’s a bit distracting, your bush in my face,” complains her step-son, Chris (Emile Hirsch).

Chris is in debt to some bad dudes because his mother “stole two ounces of coke from me.” Dismayed by such inappropriate parenting, Chris, his father (Thomas Hayden Church) and step mother Sharla hire Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a Texas cop sidelining as a contract killer, to murder Chris’ mother for her life insurance policy. Friedkin has never been one for understatement. What could have been a predictable piece of Jim Thompson-style pulp business becomes something much more subversive in Friedkin’s hands. Joe wants Chris’ barely legal sister, Dottie (Julien Temple’s daughter, Juno), as an advance on his fee.

One character is forced to fellate a piece of deep fried chicken. Another has their skull smashed in with a tin of Libby’s pumpkin puree. Friedkin doesn’t quite know when to stop. This is his second collaboration with playwright Tracy Letts after the similarly out-there Bug; the relationship appears to have revived Friedkin. As an actor, Matthew McConaughey has been in danger of getting lost in rom-com’s darkest woods – Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, Failure To Launch, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. But with this and last year’s unexpectedly brilliant The Lincoln Lawyer, he seems to be channeling some terrific Woody Harrelson-style vibes right now.

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