I wasn’t quite sure why the poster for “Killer Joe” was of fried chicken in the shape of the state of Texas. Ok. I get the Texas thing, but the fried chicken? Why? Am I out of it and don’t realize that Texas is known for its fried chicken? No. (Well, I may be a bit out of it, but not in that way!) It became crystal clear toward the end of the movie why they chose fried chicken. Oh, my!
Tracy Letts, a well-known Chicago actor and playwright, has written his first feature film, “Killer Joe.” Initially, “Killer Joe” was an off-Broadway production which ran for 9 months in 1998. I went to this movie not realizing this was Letts’ production as I was “killing” time waiting for my son to finish enjoying Lollapolooza. I remembered seeing the trailers which described a few rednecks wanting to kill a mother for insurance money. The killer-for-hire was none other than Matthew McConaughey. (Perfect casting, but I’ll talk more about that later.) Back to the premise of the movie...The adult son, Chris, played by Emile Hirsch, apparently was up to his neck in gambling debts with no way to pay up. This was Bad Decision Number 1. After Chris' total loser and redneck father turned him away, he devised a scheme to collect enough money to be free of his debtors: kill mom for the insurance money. (Bad Decision Number 2) You’re saying to yourself, “C’mon. This is an all too common theme.” Yes, you’re correct, however, you need to trust me on this one. It’s never been done quite like this. There was so much irony involved in the plot development that I was laughing out loud. Then the chips continued to fall where they did eliciting Bad Decision Number 3, 4, 5...I’m not sure where it ended. You could just see how these decisions spiraled out of control.
As I said before, Matthew McConaughey played the smarmy, cut throat killer/police officer (interesting combination), Killer Joe Cooper. I truly think this was one of McConaughey’s best performances. This role required him to be cold, charming, smart, heartless, beguiling, repulsive and scary all wrapped up into one handsome package. Emile Hirsch played the dumb hick Chris Smith who never learned anything, but had a love for his stunted sister and always protected her...except when he needed money. Thomas Hayden Church played the loser dad with an IQ no higher than a brick wall and a heart made of the same consistency. Gina Gershon rounded out this perfect cast with her tenacity, grit, and ability to look and act like a hussy. Her performance was probably the most difficult of all the actors as she portrayed a woman who has fewer morals than Britney Spears, yet she still made you have empathy for her! (Sorry to you Britney fans!)
This was a sick and twisted plot from the beginning. I’ll make no bones about that. (You’ll laugh later at this reference.) It was also physically repulsive with the onslaught of surprising violence which made me cringe, pull my knees up to my face to help my hands cover my eyes and then utter many words that I probably shouldn’t even type! (Sorry to that sweet couple sitting next to me!) That being said, I also laughed...a lot! This was a smart, entertaining, captivating and well-done dark comedy. Please emphasize the word “dark!”
This movie is NOT for everyone. I really liked it, but it left me disturbed, shaky, and unnerved. As I went into the elevator at the Century Landmark Theater (I was too shaky to walk the stairs), comments such as, “Wow!” and “Oh, my God!” along with, “That was the best dark comedy I have ever seen!” could be heard. Yes, I would agree with them all. (I might even throw in a few expletives!)