Sunday, February 1, 2015
KILLER JOE (2011)
Poster Art By: Neil Cook
Directed By: William Friedkin
Written By: Tracy Letts (Based On His Play)
Cinematography By: Caleb Deschanel
Editor: Darrin Navarro
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple, Marc Macauley
Finding himself in considerable debt, Chris a Texan drug dealer, decides the only solution is to murder his mother to collect the insurance money. Getting together with his father, the ex-husband of Chris' mother, they decide to hire Joe Cooper a contract killer, who also happens to be a police detective. The plan is that the money will go to Chris' sister Dottie. However due to the size of the contract fee, Chris agrees that Joe can take Dottie as a retainer until the insurance comes through.
The film feels like a tabloid story come to life for some reason. Or at least the type of murder mystery you would read about in some trashy paperback. Though it is more enriching then those could ever be
Matthew McConaughey really comes into his own with this performance as calm and still as a snake never knowing when he is going to strike capable of abysmal violence but stays polite and gentlemanly. He has a charm yet an intenseness that Is vivid electrifying sexy and scary. This was the first of a true turnaround for him as a respectable actor. Not just a beefcake leading man.
Here he plays an unassuming sociopath dirty cop.
The rest of the cast bite into their roles of white trash. Thomas Haden Church as the dim patriarch. Gina Gershon as the slutty wife. Emile Hirsch as the fuck-up son.
You really don't like too many of the characters and only one has any redeeming value and one at least feels guilty time to time.
The film is a dark comedy that seeks to not parody the characters but it doesn't offer hem too much depth either.
I like that the films more cynical view of the world in which they inhabit. In fact a scene with the local crime boss digger is alive with cinematic energy and possibility that passes along way too briefly.
The film is pretty simple though at times hints at a deeper core and suggests all is not what we see.
Their is really no violence until the end where it gets graphic and surprising. Yet surprisingly the rest of the film doesn't seem aimed to shock that much.
The infamous chicken scene seems more there for shock and exploitation more than organically needing to be there. Timid perfectly set for those who know it is coming and to surprise those who don't. a highlight of sorts that manages to standout yet seem perfectly inclined with The film.
In fact Gina Gershon had been originally offered the role of Sharla almost 20 years previously when the script was for a play, but she turned it down because she could not imagine performing the infamous chicken-leg scene "eight times a week" on stage.
In the end all the characters show their true colors. They are all vultures who will freely turn on one another in a moments notice to get what they want or survive. The ending is abrupt it fits with the style of the movie.
The film wants us to laugh at the characters and the quiet outrageous situations then seems to want to punish and reveal to us what truly lurks in their dark hearts and making us witness violent reactions on all sides.
Though the film constantly hints at incest a few times. It also shows a bond between brother and sister that seems to come through as the guilt he feels about the situation he started between her and Joe. Though proves it might be too late as each of them has fallen for each other overcoming the details that both knew it was more of a deal then romance.
Which one can admire for all of it's dysfunction we this film could have easily fallen into some kind of southern caricature comedy. Rather then it having heart and a mind of it's own. No matter how dark.
Emile Hirsch always feels like he is performing more then acting. He is getting better as he slowly becomes the character and becomes more believable throughout the film.
Juno Temple's character seems like she is more modeled after characters from classic cinema who were underage temptation to the leads. Like BABY DOLL and LOLITA. Maybe it's the theatrical presentation and influence that makes it seem so. These little girls at heart who seem to have adult bodies or try to seem mature when at heart they are still little girls. Her role is poised for us to expect something more and surprising yet it never seems to happen and any change seems natural.
She is talented and fills out what the role calls for, though I kept waiting for her to have a scene where she and her character really broke out. It never came, leaving her to be part. The story but always Feels like she is more part of the background. She is a tantalizing actress bit seems stuck in these types of roles. At least she manages to be the one character we care about throughout as she exudes an innocence.
In his memoir, William Friedkin wrote that Jennifer Lawrence desperately wanted the role of Dottie, but she couldn't do it due to a scheduling conflict. Maybe not then but with her noteriety and fearless Nature in her acting and roles I could see Ms. Lawrence playing this role.
The film was released theatrically with an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for "graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality" but was edited down to an R rating for the home video release so that the DVD and Blu-ray could be sold in certain stores. The reason for the R rating given by the MPAA was for "strong and disturbing violence, sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and language".
William Friedkin is a virtuoso director especially here. Since after RULES OF ENGAGEMENT he has been more or less a independent producer making projects that feel more personal or subjects he has an interest in more than blockbusters (which he would still dip his hand into once in awhile on more for hire films with pedigree casts) he also directed theater, operas and a few independent films like BUG which marked his first collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winner TRACY LETTS this is their second collaboration. Killer Joe was the first play Tracy Letts wrote, in 1991.
The direction is good but considering the material is staged it feels that way. Which is good to really illustrate this small town life. The characters loves and their way of thinking. Keeping us closed off from the outside. So like the characters in a way we feel trapped with them.
According to Matthew McConaughey, director William Friedkin rarely exceeded three takes per scene when filming.
I enjoyed how the credits at the beginning say William Friedkin's film of Tracy Letts KILLER JOE. It shows who created what and who is the true author. Giving credit and showing that this is Friedkin's interpretation of the author/playwrights work.
The last scene gives you partial flashbacks To McConaughey's previous films. Some you would wish you wouldn't remember from earlier in his career TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION came to my mind in particular. He seems to allow himself some over the top emotional redneck moments from near the end.
For all the style and restraint in the first two thirds of the film. He throws act seems to be a release for all that was held back as the film and the characters seem to go full on bonkers. That challenges the credibility of the film. Yet in the films world seems actually natural. As we have followed before and couldn't believe the low levels of these characters why now would it be hard to believe how demented and violent they choose to get?