Lurid and nasty, William Friedkin’s pulp noir thriller Killer Joe is compelling and repellent in equal doses. It isn’t easy to watch, but it’s hard to look away.
The cast is unquestionably mesmerising, with Matthew McConaughey scarily intense as the title figure, a Texas police detective cum hitman who draws a trailer trash family into a sleazy and deadly pact. In debt to a local gangster, Emile Hirsch’s good-for-nothing loser Chris wants Joe to murder his estranged mother for the insurance money. His sluggish father (Thomas Haden Church) and tarty stepmother (Gina Gershon) go along with the scheme, but things begin to unravel messily after Joe demands Chris’s virginal sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a ‘retainer’.
Aadapted from the stage play by Tracy Letts, Killer Joe proves that veteran director Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist et al) hasn’t lost the ability to shock. The unflinching sex and violence will be a turn off for many, although those viewers not cowering behind their hands will pick up a streak of dark comedy running through the film. But it’s the terrific performances Friedkin gets from his cast which really make the film stand out. Hirsch, Haden Church and Gershon push themselves to the edge, while Temple (daughter of British director Julien) is a revelation as the naïve, appropriately named Dottie. McConaughey, menacing from the start and then increasingly unhinged, is no less an eye-opener.
On general release from Friday 29th June.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.