Continuing to look back at the highlights of Matthew McConaughey’s career, let’s stop at a film released in 2012.
“Killer Joe” – a demented and violent crime thriller/dark comedy – is not for the faint of heart, and I am surely thankful my heart is not faint.
“Killer Joe” (2012) 4 / 5 stars – Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a detective with the Dallas Police Department, but he doesn’t perform much policework in this movie.
Joe works a side job during his off-hours, and his nickname speaks for itself.
He kills people for money.
For Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), a bumbling irresponsible 20-something living in rural Texas, he needs a “problem” resolved and hires Joe to solve it.
You see, drug dealers are shaking down Chris for $6,000, but without having the cash on hand, he finds himself in serious trouble.
The “good news” for Chris is his mother – who everyone hates – has a $50,000 insurance policy, and his sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), is the beneficiary.
If Joe could send Mom to the afterlife, Dottie will hand Chris enough money to cover his debt and his problems are solved!
Director William Friedkin and screewriter Tracy Letts show us – as one might expect – Chris’s plan isn’t that simple.
Friedkin and Letts gleefully lead us down a wild and sordid – and sometimes hyper-violent – trip into film noir.
It gets ugly.
Meanwhile, the movie paints a bleak picture of Chris and his surroundings.
His dad, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), doesn’t have $1,000 to his name and tries to cope with his caustic (second) wife, Sharla (Gina Gershon).
Sharla uses her looks to her advantage and cheats on Ansel like she training for an Olympic gold medal in adultery.
Chris is equally selfish, and we discover the only virtuous person in the family is the kind, but very naive, Dottie.
This family dynamic has already been a recipe for disaster for a couple decades, but with Joe in the picture, an entirely new level of stress has walked into their home.
For moviegoers who love the Coen Brothers, “Killer Joe” is your movie.
It succeeds by delivering dark tones and despair right away.
The film’s first scene sets the tone: Chris repeatedly bangs on a locked trailer door, and while the rain teems down, a tied-up dog named T-Bone relentlessly barks at him like he’s staring at a 5’7″ steak.
Life hasn’t been kind to Chris, but we soon learn the Smith family’s troubles are painfully self-inflicted.
On the other hand, while we sift through their issues, Letts gives us plenty of opportunities to laugh as well.
You see, the Smiths’ behavior is so appalling, it becomes downright comical.
I laughed a lot in this film, and much of the credit should go to Thomas Haden Church.
Ansel is aware of the collective family incompetence, but his tendency to place his head down and ignore his environment is a huge part of their troubles.
The star of the film, however, is McConaughey.
With a black jacket, black gloves and a black cowboy hat, Killer Joe Cooper is one intimidating contract killer.
Yes, Joe possess courteous manners and offers respect, but he also commands respect and generates fear.
When Joe delivers a threat, there’s little doubt he will carry it out, and with the Smiths sleepwalking through life, he has the ability to immediately bring them out of their slumber.
You might find it difficult to slumber after seeing “Killer Joe”, but isn’t that the mark of a really effective film noir?
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