Tuesday 19 September 2017

Killer comedy of trailerpark families

Paul Whitington

killer joe

(18, general release, 102 minutes)

Director: William Friedkin Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Juno Temple, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church

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Nice to see William Friedkin making films again.

This is his first since Bug, in 2006, and that film and this one were collaborations with Oklahoma playwright Tracy Letts.

Letts' work examines the travails of America's underclass, and Killer Joe is no exception.

Thomas Haden Church and Emile Hirsch play Ansel and Chris Smith, a Texas trailer park father and son who concoct a plan to kill Chris' estranged mother for an inheritance.

In order to execute this unholy scheme, they engage the services of a local police detective called Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), who moonlights as a contract killer and is referred to by friends and enemies alike as 'Killer Joe'.

Joe agrees to carry out the hit for Chris and Ansel, but there's a hitch: Joe normally demands an up-front payment, and the Smith boys hardly have a dollar between them.

So Joe suggests a kind of retainer in the shape of Chris' pretty but unhinged younger sister, Dottie (an excellent Juno Temple).

If Joe may pursue her, he'll carry out the job.

This nasty pact is bound to end unhappily for all, and Letts' adaptation of his own 1993 play fizzes with bleak humour and the kind of jokes that make you feel guilty immediately after laughing.

Friedkin manages the whole thing pretty well, and the oft-derided McConaughey is a revelation as the icily polite but genuinely scary southern sociopath.

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