KILLER JOE (2012, William Friedkin): 8/10
Whenever I read trailer trash stories in the news, I’m usually pretty appalled by the shocking grime of the story details — details that are often glossed over in Hollywood versions of crime movies. Even the ones that are based on true stories (and KILLER JOE is not) seem to anesthetize things just a bit. Luckily, veteran Friedkin gets his hands as dirty as possible, and makes one of the ugliest, meanest, funniest film noirs in years. Sometimes it goes a bit too far for entertainment’s sake, but in general this is a movie where things aren’t clean and feels all the more suspenseful because of it.
The staginess of the script isn’t a bother at all; Friedkin’s cuts are letter perfect and really enhance the material — pulpy, lurid, and derivative as it is. McConaughey is fantastic as the title character, Temple and Hirsch are quite good as the kids, and Church and Gershon make a hilariously awful pair of white trash parents. There’s a terrific running gag about characters always turning TVs off (and probably a sly comment by Friedkin on the pervasive annoyance of television in general) that has a typically violent payoff, and one scene that stood out for me was the impossibly polite small talk between a gangster and Hirsch who pause during the shakedown over a debt to shoot the shit. It’s a stagey bit of movie dialogue, but it’s so comically trivial that it becomes even more terrifying when the violence resumes. KILLER JOE is a lot of fun, and it earns the shower you have to take after you watch it.