Based on the play by Tracy Letts, director William Friedkin has remained religiously faithful to this ragingly, raunchy, raw rendition of a family pushed to the edge; options dead, every action a reaction; trailer park trash painfully vitalized and depicted by compelling acting.
Matthew McCaughey is brilliant as “Killer Joe”, an amoral lawman for murderous hire. Emile Hirsch is smarmy, stupid “Chris” a twenty-two year old drug dealer, conjuring his financial salvation by hiring Joe to kill his mother for her life insurance. Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”) is “Ansel” the clueless, guileless, gullible father of Chris, duped into duplicity. Gina Gershon as “Sharla”, (Chris’s stepmother and wife of Ansel) oozes cunning sexuality from every pore, her salty, salacious demeanor forecasts a tide of tribulation.
Juno Temple as “Dottie” is positively, pristinely riveting as a naive “savant”; with beguiling innocence she floats, never quite connecting or involved, with her vile, destitute environment; she is “Cassandra”, “Baby Doll” a “Siren” of captivating, sinuous, seductiveness, enmeshing all in her web.
“Killer Joe” earns and deserves an “R” rating, (not NC-17); the blatant nudity, blood and brutality portray a world to be shunned but one that lives; herein lies the power of the terrible tableau; never for a second does one doubt or question the validity of a hell on earth; various versions headline newspapers, media, bludgeoning our sensitivities; Warholian, repetition breeds ennui; anesthetized, we accept the horror, acknowledging its pervasive inevitability; praying its lethal tentacles never sense our presence.
“Killer Joe” has contemporary nuances of a medieval morality play; herculean struggle to justify the means to produce the end, without writhing in moral turpitude. Joe never languishes; he is Faustian in his business arrangements; his code, like the commandments, chiseled in marble; a compassionless man with the tongue of an angel, the soul of Beelzebub.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!