Review: Killer Joe

Two years ago The Killer Inside Me raised an almighty stink with its explicit depiction of a sadistic murderous Texas sheriff and his misogynistic violence. Now a ragtag ensemble of actors have been gathered together by a director four decades past his glory years for a knockabout black comedy rehash.

The latest from William Friedkin, the director of the Exorcist and French Connection, arrives in our cinemas balked up by a reputation for provoking shock and disgust but much of its intimidating swagger is immediately dissipated by the realisation that it is a theatre adaptation.

Terrible deeds are perpetrated in its third act but nothing repulsed me as much as a shot of the whole cast sat around a dining table all of them acting away frantically just like in a stage production. It plays like a piece of wannabe Tennessee Williams Southern gothic, script doctored by a wannabe Tarantino.

A family of monster truck watching, fried chicken scoffing trailer trash yokels manage to dig themselves into an even deeper hole when they engage the services of a local sheriff (Matthew McConaughey) who has a sideline as a contract killer. It certainly raises a some laughs but cheap ones – it's a blunt exercise in pointing and laughing at simpletons.

This is an actors film and there is nothing here but acting. Those on the fame ascent, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple, struggle but those on the descent do well.

McConaughey was the Sam Worthington of the mid-1990s, someone who seemed to be anointed a star without consulting the public, who then totally rejected him. As with Worthington it was often difficult to see what had gotten Hollywood types so worked up about him.

Now that it is too late he finals pulls off a performance to justify the hype. The kind of softly spoken menace and carefully rationed psychopathic fury he gives to the title role is nothing that hasn't been done before, but he does do it so very, very well.

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Gina Gershon though perhaps deserves most notice. It's an insulting role, the cheating slattern, but she does it with dignity.

When Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson got slapped around in The Killer Inside Me they did it with a certain dopey acquiescence. They believed they were being brave.

Gershon performs her various indignities with a scowled resentment that a woman of her ability never really got the roles she deserved and has been reduced to this.


Director: William Friedkin

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon

Length: 103mins