I can only say that if you see this film, you will never again be able to eat a chicken leg with any peace of mind.
If anyone is wondering why Killer Joe brings with it an NC-17 rating, you quickly understand after the first ten minutes. Emile Hirsch, playing Chris Smith, is a woefully troubled Texas drug dealer deep in debt to local thugs. As he stands in the rain, pounding on the locked door of his father’s home in the dark of night, no one responds. As he curses loudly, his father’s girlfriend, a diabolical floozy played to the hilt by Gina Gershon, appears at the door totally naked from the navel down. She rapidly expresses her disgust at Hirsch’s disgust, and a sign might as well drop in the theater that says, “Welcome to one profane film.”
Hirsch’s father, played with subtle, twisted charm by Thomas Haden Church, is a hard drinker living in a trailer with Gershon and his daughter Dotty. Dotty, played by Juno Temple with brutal temerity, is a young woman so emotionally shell-shocked that it is hard to imagine how she has lived this long.
Without giving anything away, Hirsch enlists his father’s support to kill their ex-wife/mother for her insurance, a policy that they stupidly conclude lists Dotty as a beneficiary. Hirsch informs everyone that there is a police officer named Killer Joe working part-time as a hit man, and he will be the key to their needed financial success.
The rest of the film unfolds in scenes that are best described as a combination of profanity, deviancy, harsh brutality and wild hysteria. And the biggest surprise of the film is that Killer Joe is played by Matthew McConaughey, who completely redefines a reputation that many people uniformly reject as a result of his series of woefully insipid films with Kate Hudson.
But forget what you might think about Mr. McConaughey and go see this film anyway. He proved in The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) that there is an actor hiding inside him. Here, he is a demented killer with a short list of simple rules. He usually wants to be paid up front, only here he’s willing to accept a retainer if it involves indiscriminate sex with Dotty. Additionally, if anyone is subsequently arrested and they identify him in any fashion, they will die immediately. Finally, once Hirsch’s mother meets her demise, he then gets paid in full and everyone can sit around their campfires singing Kumbaya.
This is a movie that at times comes close to shocking the senses of nearly everyone in the theater. A woman in her early 30’s sitting in my row got up and left early in the film when Hirsch was being brutally beaten by bikers when his debt referred to above went unpaid. His face remains woefully bruised throughout the rest of the film, and is forced to walk with a terrible limp. Nothing has obviously gone right in Hirsch’s life, and you have a suspicious feeling that he’s not going to see many good moments by the end of this film.
McConaughey is a sensation as a psychopath from Dante’s Seventh Ring of Hell. While I will leave it for your viewing to decide, there is an astonishingly ghastly yet mesmerizing scene near the end of the film that involves his horribly seductive treatment of Hirsch, Church, Temple and Gershon that will leave you laughing as you simultaneously look away in abject horror. Let me put it this way. If the Pope was reviewing Killer Joe from Rome, any Catholic who saw it would be banned from the church for the rest of their life.
Contemplate this for a moment. Have you ever seen a film where a woman is forced to give simulated oral sex to a man, in this case McConaughey, through the use of a Kentucky Fried Chicken drumstick? How about a moment where McConaughey reduces Dotty to complete nudity before she is enticed to grope him from behind, losing touch with everything but him?
Why should you see this film? Hell, I really can’t give you any good explanation. Does it help if I tell you that even McConaughey has scenes where he is seen standing nude, although all you can see is his posterior as opposed to the frontal shots of both Gershon and Temple? Then again, if you don’t mind riding a roller coaster through the Tunnel of Deviancy that will both shock and amuse you, this just might be your cup of poisonous tea.