Killer Joe (2011) – 4.5/5

Nasty, demented film full of vile, unsympathetic characters/situations that would make you weep for the future of mankind were it not all as clearly exaggerated as it is. But it’s also quite bold, fearless, risky, well written, well directed, well shot, and well acted, particularly from, yes, Matthew McConaughey, but also from Juno Temple who is adorable as all hell here, and, strangely enough, slightly reminiscent of a young Renée Zellweger at times. And man, what a crazy, disturbing ride. Talk about earning its NC-17 rating. How this movie managed to get made at all, let alone with several “name” actors attached, is beyond me.

If I haven’t mentioned how utterly insane the plot of this movie is yet, let me say it now: it’s insane. It’s pretty simple on the surface, but the stuff that happens, man. And the characters here are so unappealing. Truly bottom of the barrel, trailer trash types the lot of them, which you’d think would be a turnoff but no, it just makes the film all the more engaging. The strong performances help, namely from, again, McConaughey and Temple, though Gina Gershon, the woman who plays the trashy wife, is pretty good herself, especially in the latter half when certain, uh, “stuff” happens that really put her acting skills to the test. And she passes with flying colors, among other things.

I’d be surprised actually if all three of them don’t get nominated for Academy Awards for this, they’re that good. Truly outstanding. Even McConaughey, whom I’ve always considered talented and highly underrated, does an excellent job. He finally gets to act here, truly act, not just make faces at the camera, and what a great job he does. His scenes with Temple are some of the best in the film, and arguably also some of the most disturbing, though nothing holds a candle to the last 20 minutes, my god. Talk about a powerhouse performance. One of the best, most ridiculously nasty scenes I’ve ever seen in a mainstream film. I even sort of knew what was coming, yet I still found it disturbing and hard to watch. But brilliant, so brilliant. Man. The scene is worth the price of admission alone. And what an ending!

Overall, god, what a crazy freaking film this is. Super violent, super sexual, nasty, fearless, twisted, etc etc, but also extremely enjoyable, and very, very well made. It’s a B-movie disguised as a mainstream “A” film, made with all the same skill and craftsmanship but beholden to few of the same restrictions. Sure, it’s not perfect: the plot is a bit too extreme and silly at times, some scenes are kind of awkwardly edited, and Emile Hirsch, who I guess is the main character here, is downright terrible in the role. Awful. It’s almost as though he can’t act at all at times. What the heck happened to the guy? Wasn’t he nominated for an Oscar just a few short years ago? Thomas Haden Church is just as bad, but at least he has a few funny moments here and there. But man does Hirsch suck here. Really miscast.

But whatever. Those are minor quibbles given how good the film as a whole is. It’s certainly no dramatic masterpiece, and some people will be repulsed by a lot of its content, but if you’re not squeamish and aren’t afraid to see something you’ve probably never seen before, something that may very well shock and disturb you, this is the movie for you.  But be warned: it’s extreme. Not the most extreme thing ever made, but for a mainstream film, it’s pretty out there. But what a movie. One of the best of the year. Watch it!

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