The holiday schedule has thrown just about everybody off of their usual day to day business we critics are no exception as a huge number of new releases have hit the store shelves in the days just before Christmas. Out this past Friday on DVD & Blu-Ray Combo Pack is a film that was a smash hit at the 2011 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival as an iconic director takes a memorable stage play and translates it to the big screen. It’s time for “Killer Joe”.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Emilie Hirsch and Gina Gershon
Directed by William Friedkin
In “Killer Joe” when 22-year-old Chris (Hirsch) finds himself in debt to a drug lord, he hires a hit man to dispatch his mother, whose $50,000 life insurance policy benefits his sister Dottie. Chris finds Joe Cooper (McConaughey) a creepy yet cool as a cucumber Dallas cop who moonlights as a contract killer. When Chris can’t pay Joe upfront, Joe sets his sight on Dottie (Temple) as collateral for the job. The contract killer and his ‘retainer’ develop an unusual bond and like from a modern-day, twisted fairy tale, “Killer Joe” Cooper becomes the prince to Dottie’s Cinderella.
Based on the play by Tracey Letts who also adapted this for the screen “Killer Joe” is a thundering, bold and brash dark noir comedy that simply takes no prisoners. As the plot twists and turn, get more and more convoluted, twisted and downright disturbing we get sucked into this hilariously warped world. Friedkin smartly lets it all fly, not hold anything back and the film goes through beat by beat it is so incredibly well constructed that none of the characters fractured psychoses are glossed over and the entire ensemble gets their chance to shine. In lesser hands this could have been incredibly disappointing, but the cast tore into this material with absolute vengeance.
While many pundits are proclaiming the calendar year of 2012 to belong to Channing Tatum, with his turn here in “Killer Joe”, Matthew McConaughey unleashes his dark side for a thrilling character driven ride that proclaims it the year of McConaughey . His ‘Killer’ Joe Cooper captures a true manic energy as this character is the psychotic ‘cock of the walk’, every move has such an intense purpose that despite being scared of him you simply can’t look away and when he finally loses his cool and his mad dog is finally unleashed you are frozen in fear but still laughing at his one-liners, it’s unquestionably one of the best performances of his career. Matching him step for step is young Juno Temple as the ingénue Dottie, who knows a little more then she is letting on but still goes along for the ride in her incredibly fractured brood and the scenes with her and McConaughey are as equally uncomfortable as they are just priceless. The ensemble rounds out with the likes of Emilie Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church & Gina Gershon who took home a nod from our very own Toronto Film Critics Association for supporting actress and everybody in this film really goes above and beyond making you feel as uncomfortable as possible witnessing their world, but at the end of the day this film begins and end with Matthew McConaughey and Juno Temple who are just magic to watch on screen.
Picture and sound quality are top notch as per the norm and the special features on this Combo Pack include a behind the scenes look at the making of the film as well as interviews with the cast and crew.
“Killer Joe” is a dark, disturbing character piece that admittedly won’t be for everyone, but rarely has such a well written character piece been so full of pulp, drama and intrigue that you simply won’t be able to look away.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Killer Joe” is now available for rent on DVD & Blu-Ray at video stores all across the land; you can also find it for purchase at all major retailers like iTunes, amazon.ca and HMV.
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