The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Killer Joe | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Killer Joe

Directed by: William Friedkin
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church

Haden Church and son Hirsch hire crooked cop McConaughey to kill Haden Church's ex-wife for insurance money. In lieu of payment he takes the mentally challenged Temple as a retainer.
"Killer Joe" opens with a curious credit: "William Friedkin's film of Tracy Letts' Killer Joe". Directors are notoriously egotistic so it's rare for them to give their writer so much credit. As the movie progresses, a possible motive becomes apparent. Does Friedkin want the audience to mistakenly assume that his movie has come from the pen of a female as it contains misogyny on a scale not seen since Neil LaBute's "In the Company of Men"? There's a scene where Gershon is brutally beaten and sexually degraded, the sort of moment which generally leads to a few walkouts. It didn't. What's particularly abhorrent is that the scene is played for laughs and I witnessed one female in the audience actually clapping at the sight of Gershon's nose being punched into her face. With few taboos left, more and more film-makers seem to be including scenes of violence against women for shock value but already audiences seem to be desensitized. It's a damning indictment of anglo-saxon culture that seeing a man make love to a woman is more offensive than watching him beat her to a bloody pulp.
Lett certainly doesn't deserve such a prominent credit as of all the contributions to this film, his is by far the worst. He may be a playwright of renown but he seems clueless when it comes to writing for the cinematic medium, allowing his script to fall back on cheap exposition and didacticism. At one point a character named Rex is mentioned in relation to an important plot twist. Up to this point we haven't heard of Rex, surely if he's going to play such an important role he would have been involved to some degree prior to this point. Or maybe we're about to cut to this character and all will be revealed? No, Letts instead just has Temple tell us in a line of dialogue "Rex is Momma's boyfriend". Such lazy writing would be frowned upon in a stage play, in a film script it's unforgivable. His dialogue is awful too, the sort of rambling nonsense which plagued nineties cinema in the wake of Tarantino.
The aesthetic aimed for seems to be Tennessee Williams meets Tobe Hooper. Letts is no Williams but Friedkin and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel do a good job imitating the hot Texan grime of Hooper's early films. Deschanel's photography could easily be mistaken for that of Hooper's regular DP, the great Daniel Pearl.
McConaughey started his career in a sequel to Hooper's "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" and he references this in a line about tearing someone's face off and wearing it. His performance is the standout but the cast in general are impressive although Gershon seems miscast in her white trash role.
It's good to have Friedkin back but he needs to sever his ties with Letts if he wants to reestablish himself as one of America's most interesting film-makers.