Thursday, June 06, 2013

Killer Joe

Directed by William Friedkin and written by Tracy Letts from his play, Killer Joe is the story about a young drug dealer who is going through money troubles as he and his family hire a contract killer to his mother so that he can collect the insurance money. The film revolves around a family trying to get money from someone they despise only to make a deal with someone they shouldn’t have trusted. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, and Juno Temple. Killer Joe is a grimy yet unsettling film from William Friedkin.

The film is a look into the troubled world of a very dysfunctional family living in West Dallas, Texas where a young drug dealer named Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is in deep debt as he owes a lot of money to loan sharks. The only way he can get the money is to have his mother killed so his younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple) can collect the insurance money worth $50,000 and he can split the money between himself, his sister, their father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), and their stepmother Sharla (Gina Gershon). By hiring the detective/contract killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), they hope the plan would work but since the Smith family has no money. Dottie becomes Joe’s retainer until the money is given to Dottie but things become complicated leading to all sorts of trouble. Notably as Joe has some specific rules for Chris and Ansel to follow along with some secrets that could ruin things.

Tracy Letts’ screenplay plays into the dysfunctional world of this family where Chris is a young dealer who is in trouble because of his mother as he owes a lot of money. Though Chris is a fuck-up, he is desperate to get out of debt as he turns to his father for help but Ansel doesn’t have the money to help him out as Chris ropes the family in on the solution of how they can get some big money. By hiring Joe Cooper to do the job, Chris is unaware of the implications that he has bargained for as well as the danger he’s putting Dottie in. Especially as she’s this young, child-like woman who is kind of eccentric but also a representation of innocence though she too doesn’t like her mother very much as she’s also on board with the idea of having her mother dead. Joe is intrigued by Dottie as he wants to do a lot for her but is also a man who is a complete professional in what he does.

While Ansel and Sharla are characters who are only on board because of the money, once things become complicated in relation to what happens after Joe does the job. Notably as secrets are unveiled as well as resentment towards Chris over the danger they’re being put through as Joe is a man that is given a task for what he does and he wants what he’s being paid for. There were rules that Ansel and Chris had to follow but Chris’ conflict over what is happening to Dottie makes him uneasy as he tries to cancel the hit only to be reminded of the trouble he’s in. It adds to not just the conflict that Chris is facing but also the damage of his actions as he realizes how far down he’s in as he put his family in danger and has to deal with the consequences from not just the loan sharks but Joe as well.

The direction of William Friedkin is definitely unsafe and discomforting in not just the way he portrays a family that are dysfunctional and selfish but also the world they’re in as they live in a trailer park in the West Dallas, Texas. While there’s some scenes shot in New Orleans, Friedkin makes West Dallas into this very vast yet grimy place where things are in decay while and it’s a world where people tend to live by their own rules. It’s also a place where Friedkin uses Texas something that is considered Gothic with its images of lighting and rain where it plays a sense of doom that is to come while some of the locations showcase a place that had lost some of its splendor.

It’s not just West Dallas that’s a character in the film but also some of the presentation that Friedkin goes for as he maintains something that is stylish but also has this air of suspense in some of the film’s darker moments. Even in scenes between Joe and Dottie where Joe is entranced by Dottie’s innocence as there’s also an element of creepiness that occurs from Joe. The violence in the film is quite brutal that includes a scene where Chris is beaten by a couple of hoods. Yet, that is tame compared to the film’s final sequence where Joe confronts Sharla and Ansel over the insurance money where it involves some moments that will push the limits of how much someone can take. Even as it would later be followed by a chilly climax to showcase not just some dark truths but also something that is inevitable about everything else. Overall, William Friedkin creates a truly visceral yet mesmerizing film about greed and loyalty that refuses to play nice.

Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel does excellent work with the cinematography from a more naturalistic setting for the exterior scenes in the day to some more stylish use of lights in some of the nighttime interior and exteriors scenes including moments in the rain. Editor Darrin Navarro does fantastic work with the editing to play up the sensation of the violence as well as using some rhythmic yet methodical cuts to play out the film‘s suspenseful moments. Production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone and set decorator Alice Baker do superb work with the set pieces from the empty pool hall where Joe meets Chris and Ansel to the trailer home the Smith family lives in that includes Dottie’s very innocent room that is filled with posters of pop idols.

Costume designer Peggy A. Schnitzer does nice work with the film‘s clothes as it‘s mostly casual and grimy though the look of Joe is very dark with his boots and black cowboy hat. Sound designer Steve Boeddeker and sound editors Aaron Levy and Mace Matiosian do amazing work with the sound to play out the air of suspense in some of the film‘s locations along with some moments where the sound creates an atmosphere to create something that is very intense. The film’s music by Tyler Bates is terrific as it‘s very low-key with its use of ambient music to underplay the suspense and drama. Music supervisor C.C. Adcock creates a soundtrack that is offbeat as it ranges from country music, rockabilly, folk music, and some reggae as it includes contributions from Lee Hazelwood, Clarence Carter, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Reverend Horton Heat.

The casting by Denise Chamian is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Danny Epper and Jeff Galpin as a couple of biker thugs who beat up Chris, Marc Macauley as the loan shark Digger that Chris owes money to, Sean O’Hara as the boyfriend of Chris’ mother Rex, and Julia Adams as Chris and Dottie’s mother Adele. Gina Gershon is excellent as Ansel’s wife Sharla who doesn’t really like Chris very much as she goes for the plan only for the money as she is also carrying a secret that would later impact things. Thomas Haden Church is superb as Ansel as a man who is unsure about getting involved with the scheme only to realize how beneficial it would be until he realizes the consequences it would bring.

Juno Temple is wonderful as Dottie as this very innocent young woman who is kind of an eccentric but also who is also quite girlish as she doesn’t seem to know what is really going on other than the fact that her mom is going to be killed. Emile Hirsch is amazing as Chris Smith as a young man in a lot of trouble as he tries to get himself out of trouble only to realize he’s made a deal that will bring in some serious consequences. Finally, there’s Matthew McConaughey in a performance for the ages as Joe Cooper where McConaughey is a man that is about his job while knowing what he can get in return as he’s also a man that’s in control but also instills a sense of order in what he does and what he wants as it’s definitely a performance full of terror and charisma.

Killer Joe is a phenomenal film from William Friedkin that features an unforgettable performance from Matthew McConaughey and a chilling screenplay from Tracy Letts. Along with a great ensemble that includes Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, and Gina Gershon, it’s a film that doesn’t want to play nice while not being afraid to be ugly and dirty. For William Friedkin, the film is certainly his most captivating but also his most harrowing as it shows a master returning to form. In the end, Killer Joe is an outstanding film from William Friedkin.

William Friedkin Films: (Good Times) - (The Birthday Party) - (The Night They Raided Minsky’s) - (The Boys in the Band) - The French Connection - The Exorcist - Sorcerer - (Brink’s Job) - Cruising - (Deal of the Century) - To Live and Die in L.A. - (Rampage (1987 film)) - (The Guardian (1990 film)) - (Blue Chips) - (Jailbreakers) - (Jade) - (12 Angry Men (1997 TV film)) - (Rules of Engagement) - (The Hunted (2003 film)) - Bug (2006 film)

© thevoid99 2013


s. said...

Phenomenal movie indeed! I wish McConaughey and Gershon got more love for their performances, but I suppose the movie was much too edgy for awards consideration.

thevoid99 said...

I know... the whole cast was great. They've should've gotten recognition for that.

Lights Camera Reaction said...

I wish McConaughey got more attention for his performance, his line-delivery is perfect, you always feel on edge in every scene with him, a character you never know what he’s going to do, he plays a vicious killer perfectly.

Nice review!

thevoid99 said...

@Lights Camera Reaction-I agree. The dude should've gotten some recognition because that was a performance for the ages.