Source: Region 1 DVD (Lionsgate)
Running time: 01:42:17
Thomas Haden Church), are also relying on the insurance money to pay Killer Joe his fee, but unfortunately for them, he only accepts payments up front - "no exceptions"; that is, until Joe develops a fondness for the innocent, naive Dottie and takes her as a collateral until Chris can pay up.
KILLER JOE once again sees director William Friedkin teaming up with playwright Tracy Letts after the two collaborated on BUG. Like BUG, KILLER JOE was originally a stage play that revolved around characters who most would probably view as "white trash", as they find themselves in a sticky situation that spirals into chaos and insanity. Whereas BUG was a horror movie, KILLER JOE is a "black comedy" about a botched deal between a hitman and a client. The film does indeed have a plot, but it's very performance and character-driven, which makes sense since it originated from the stage. That said, the characters and the performances could make or break the film for some people. You'll either find the characters too rotten to be able to invest in the film, or you'll be like me and find them to be a fascinating collection of people. On the other hand, the performances are really strong, but they could also be a bit much for some people (I'm lookin' at you, Emile Hirsch).
Matthew McConaughey, in my opinion, delivers what is quite possibly the scariest performance of his career and brings to life a truly memorable and frightening character. "Killer Joe", to me, was a very symbolic character. I'm not sure if this was Letts's intention when he wrote the character or not, but the way that Joe was brought to life on screen by both McConaughey and Friedkin led me to speculate that there was some sort of underlying supernatural influence. Sure, he's the personification of corruption, but he's also presented as if he were the Grim Reaper, or the Devil incarnate; he's always dressed in black, he takes lives and controls fates, and he makes deals that could end with fatal repercussions if the other party fails to live up to their end of the bargain.
This could be a breakout role for Juno Temple, who, according to director William Friedkin, somehow acquired a script for the film on her own and sent in an audition tape that she made with her little brother. Thomas Haden Church (and his awful facial hair) was a big highlight for me personally, as he really nails the black comedy. Emile Hirsch may be a perfect casting choice; his small stature is appropriate for a character like Chris Smith, who's dwarfed by his many problems. And lastly, that brings us to Gina Gershon. Without spoiling a very important scene that she's involved in at the end of the film, I'll just say that she delivers a very brave performance and should be applauded for simply going through with what she did. Those are my thoughts on the cast, and I haven't even gotten into how deep the characters are yet. Perhaps that's something that's best for everyone to discover on their own, but one thing of note that I'd like to mention is the unusual relationship between Chris and Ansel. Together, they resemble a couple of ex-cons who were in prison together rather than a proper father and son, which I found to be both comedic and interesting.
You may notice by the rating and running time at the top of the review that I watched the cut version of KILLER JOE. The film gained a bit of notoriety when it was initially screened at festivals for being rough, which then led to the film getting an NC-17 rating. As it got a release on DVD, Blu-Ray, and various digital outlets, it was presented in an R-rated version and an "Uncut" version, which is basically the NC-17 cut if I'm not mistaken. I actually acquired both versions - the "R" version on DVD and the uncut version as an HD download from iTunes. I was surprised to see that the only difference between the two was that the uncut version included extra, more graphic footage of a character fellating something. That said, the cut version is still quite graphic and only around 45 seconds shorter for those who are interested.
Behind the scenes still of William Friedkin and Juno Temple