You won’t be proud of yourself for laughing at Killer Joe
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, and Juno Temple. Rated 18A.
If the cast members of Trailer Park Boys remind you of the ultrasuave protagonists in a Noel Coward comedy, then this is the film for you. Compared to Ricky’s pals, the Texas riffraff in Killer Joe demonstrate their willingness to seek their proper level by sinking lower all the time. Thus, when Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), already a degenerate gambler at the age of 22, pounds drunkenly on the door of his daddy’s trailer in the wee small hours, this no-account loser is greeted by the pubic hair of Sharla (Gina Gershon), his adulterous, camera-happy step-mom.
Chris plans to solve his problems with the local loan shark by knocking off a close family member, then piecing off the insurance money that should go to Dottie (Juno Temple), his rather slow sister. The catch is, being well aware of his family’s pandemic incompetence—one suspects these people couldn’t breathe without using a diagram—Chris decides to enlist the costly services of Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a lawman who moonlights as a hitman.
As is well known, poor white trash constitute the only ethnic group in America that one can still make fun of with impunity, and this is something that Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Tracy Letts does nonstop (while simultaneously taking swipes at Texas, the neighbouring state that this native Oklahoman obviously dislikes). As for director William Friedkin, well, he’s still trying to regain the ground he lost after the economic disaster of Sorcerer (with his only moderate critical success since The Exorcist being Bug, a film he adapted from another Tracy Letts stage work).
So is Killer Joe funny? Yes, it is…although you won’t be proud of yourself for laughing. This said, the way that Sharla is treated on-screen is more than a little difficult to, uh, swallow. (What did that poor woman do in her last life, anyway?)
Watch the trailer for Killer Joe.