a Primal Root review
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing one of the most outrageously over the top, gratuitously violent, creepiest, high octane, no holds barred, psychotic and unstable films I’ve sat down to witness in a main stream googaplex since…well, since I can remember. The film is William Friedkin’s 2012 deep black crime flick ‘Killer Joe’. Adapted by Tracy Lett’s from a stage play of his, ‘Killer Joe’ is one sick, blood caked, homage to complete and utter white trash stupidity. The violence is abrupt and shocking, the sex is dirty and perverse, and the outlook is utterly bleak.
Killer Joe might be among the best and funniest movies I’ve seen in years.
But this isn’t your typical dark comedy. No, when you buy your ticket for this sucker you have no idea the depths of depravity and nastiness you are in for. I sure as Hell didn’t. But I also hadn’t prepared myself for how much I laughed through the whole damn thing. Sure I was aghast at what I was seeing on screen, but the brilliant performances, the direction of Friedkin and Letts’ amazing, genre bending screenplay make this one exhilarating dive down to the bottom of the lives our nation’s dumpster dwellers.
Alright, the set up is that dim witted dope dealer named Chris (Emil Hirsch, making the best of a thankless role) finds his life on the line when he falls into horrendous debt with his supplier. What’s the scheme Chris comes up with? Kill his Mother and collect the insurance money! He enlists the help of his father and his mother’s ex-husband, getter dweller and resident numbskull, Ansel (played to perfection by Thomas Haden Church), gains the approval of his attractive and mysterious sister Dottie (the always game Juno Temple) whose mental state and past are always in question and even his ultra skanky step mother, Sharla (Gina Gershon, who deserves a medal of valor for her performance). Of course, everyone demands a cut of the inheritance.
Chris and Ansel decide to hire the services of the local Texas legend, contract killer “Killer Joe” who happens to be a police detective full time. Killer Joe is played with full on demented, murderous, calculated glee by that always underrated Mathew McConaughey, who in a perfect world would be getting an Oscar for his blistering, in your face performance here. The man brings Killer Joe’s calm, sociopath personality to life and it really is a sight to behold. Every time the man enters frame he manages to be likable. He comes off relatively nice (as far as far as killers for hire go) if a little bit quirky…but even in these early scenes we feel a sense of dread. There’s much more to this guy than meets the eye. Once all the cards are out on the table, things get pretty goddamn crazy, pretty goddamn quickly.
Chris and Ansel meet with Killer Joe, and seeing as the two nimrods don;t have a dime between them, they cannot hire Killer Joe’s services. However, Killer Joe comes up with an alternative plan, a retainer. If they give Killer Joe Dottie until they can get the money to pay him off, he will carry out the family wish of killing of Mommy dearest. Being complete fuck stick, Chris and Ansel agree and over a dinner of tuna casserole, Killer Joe and Dottie get…formally acquainted.
The LAST thing I want to do is spoil Killer Joe for you. But what I can say is that there is a proverbial buffet of loathsomeness on display here. From burned out trailer courts, to grease stained double wide interiors and bankrupt businesses boarded up and left for dead. Killer Joe inhabits middle America and the small towns crushed and left to rot on the side lines. It’s a desperate world these characters inhabit and it’s a place we know all too well.
Still, these people seem to have really adapted to their trashy surroundings and have, in effect, become total trash themselves. Filthy, brain dead, greedy scum suckers willing to kill family and use them as collateral just so they can make some cash and survive. Is this what it’s come to when we live in a land where there’s no one to turn to?
Sure, the underlying concept of the surroundings in Killer Joe are disheartening and disturbing enough with what they insinuate. But the actions our cast of characters take against one another is on another level entirely. I’ve, honest to Cthulhu, never seen anything like Killer Joe’s last twenty minutes. Much has been made of the fried chicken moment, Hell, it’s even a centerpiece of the ad campaign, but there is much more going on here and so much more to be had as a viewer.
And yes, I laughed. I laughed out loud hard and frequently. But every time I did, I kept questioning myself. “Should I be laughing at this?” It’s so ridiculously depraved and dirty, I couldn’t help myself. I laughed at the character’s stupidity, the grandiose skeeziness, the sudden violence, the allusions of incest…it’s a perfect concoction of pitch black humor. But I don’t expect everyone to have the same reaction I did.
Now, keep in mind, the NC-17 rated crime film (now available unrated on DVD and Blu-Ray) will not be for everyone. This is not an easily digested, cookie cutter, vanilla puddin’ pop kind of movie. This is some heavily fucked up Trash Cinema and for those who know they can handle such things. Either you will really enjoy Killer Joe or you will end up turning it off and barfing across the commode. It seems to have very little middle ground.
Killer Joe is disturbing and exhilarating and unlike anything I have seen in American mainstream cinema in a very long time.Needless to say, I had a blast watching it and Killer Joe just might be my favorite movie of 2012.
Heads up! Below trailer contains a ton of plot spoilers!