William Friedkin’s first film for a number of years is an adaptation of the dark play Killer Joe written originally and adapted for the screen by Tracy Letts. From the outset this film is not suitable for the faint hearted or easily offended but its uncompromising nature is where the film really succeeds.
From the outset the audience is introduced to an unrelenting slew of completely unlikeable characters, not a single person in this film has any redeeming features. The crux of the plot centres on a son deciding to take out a contract out on his mother to benefit from the life insurance and this being cinema, not everything goes to plan.
Despite Friedkin being at the helm, the casting of Matthew McConaughey did initially start alarm bells ringing, however in this case I was proved wrong. His performance really defines this film, gone are the smug self serving performances of old. The titular character is an utter bastard and he delivers a palpable sense of menace in every scene in which he appears. It is not just McConaughey on fine form though, Thomas Haden Church as the ex husband is brilliant as care-free trailer trash who to be just caught up in the events of the film. Gina Gershon (not seen on the big screen for quite some time) deserves a lot of credit, from the shocking but amusing opening scene up until the very end of the film wen she partakes in a very disturbing but highly effective scene that is likely to result in the viewer forgoing KFC for a very long time!
It’s not just the performances that drive this well crafted thriller though, as one would expect from a director with the pedigree of Friedkin the film is impeccably shot throughout and even this many years after The Exorcist this work is the hallmark of a director who has not (like so many others) lost his ability to shock an audience. Letts adaptation of her original work is also a factor in the film’s success, any screenwriter who can make watching such utterly detestable characters so compulsive clearly has a talent for their art.
Whilst it’s not a film for everyone and certainly will cause offense in some circles, if you can stomach the violence and have a penchant for the darker side of humour then this is an utterly compelling work and comes highly recommended.