Killer Joe is entirely unlike The Silence of the Lambs type serial killer examination I expected, and is instead a (deeply) dark tale of how the ignorant and ill equipped can dig a hole that they cannot extricate themselves from with their own stupidity.
‘Killer’ Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a police detective who moonlights as a killer for hire. He is smooth yet greasy. Calm and balanced yet unpredictable. Reassuring yet offputting. Logical yet quite possibly psychotic.
In short a dichotomy of emotion and intent.
So when the world’s looniest trailer park family (at least I hope this is the worst) secure his services to kill ‘Ma’ for the insurance money, it’s fair to say that they can’t possibly grasp the magnitude of the repercussions this might bring.
It starts with drug dealing son Chris (Emile Hirsch) getting too deep in debt to loan sharks, who have started giving graphic descriptions of how and what will follow with continued non-payment. Chris urges his father Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church) to green light the execution of his ex-wife, and they also secure the OK from new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon).
The plan is set. Joe will kill Ma. The insurance proceeds of 50k will go to 12 year old daughter Dottie (Juno Temple), and after Joe takes his fee the remainder will be split four ways.
How could it possibly go wrong?
Well for starters Joe needs his fee upfront – no exceptions. With this not possible Joe comes up with a plan B, that being taking 12 year old Dottie as a ‘retainer’ until the payout arrives. And if you think he means to show Dottie the parental figure she so sorely lacked previously you have the wrong film.
Second, everyone involved in the plan is an idiot. Only Joe has no real downside. If it works he pockets his cash and leaves. If it fails he continues his icky relationship with the impressionable, innocent and slightly simple Dottie. In between he gets to kill people and to cruise about menacingly.
Killer Joe is not so much a character study as it is a film like A Simple Plan or Fargo, a jet black drama (I can’t bring myself to label a film with such dark undertones a ‘black comedy’) about how amateur fishermen shouldn’t dip their toes in shark infested waters.
The story is dark. The undertones darker. McConaughey plays against type as the always dangerous Joe. Hirsch, Gershon and Church immerse themselves in roles as the trashiest of trailer trash, and Temple is all wide eyed and awkward as the pre-teen centre of the tale, a troubled young girl who just wants to belong, only with no-one worthy of belonging to.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Some claim Killer Joe as an unfairly over-looked gem from 2012, while it is a decent film, it is hardly something that I would put myself out to track down.