Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch in "Killer Joe" 2011 Voltage Pictures
“Killer Joe:” a killer of a flick!  Directed by William Friedkin, starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, and Gina Gershon.  

I’ll never look at a deep fried chicken drumstick in the same way again.  And I doubt you will either.

“Killer Joe” is a raw, suspenseful, and violent film based on a play by Tracy Letts which ran off- Broadway in 1998.

This excellent film takes place in a lawless, small Texas town where it’s either dry as toast or pouring down rain.  McConaughey plays a police detective, Joe Cooper, who contracts out as a hit-man on the side.  Cooper is immaculately turned out in black, including a gorgeous, three-quarter length black leather coat and 10-gallon hat.  He is a cold-blooded, soft-spoken, easy-going man.  Just don’t go back on your word once you hire him to do your dirty work, you might get your head bashed in with a #2 can of pumpkin filling- or worse.  He goes about his outlaw work methodically and unemotionally.  He cares for nothing and no one but himself.  The true existential nihilist. A close-up of his baby-smooth face beneath his black hat, he stares at you with blue, blue, Paul Newman blue eyes, half-smile on his lips, a guaranteed chill.

Cooper is hired to do a job for a trailer-trash family by Chris Smith (a wonderful Emil Hirsch).  Chris is the son of a naive, cuckolded, brainless hulk of man, Ansel Smith, played pitch-perfectly by Thomas Hayden Church.  Gina Gershon was cast as Chris’s step-mother, Sharla Smith, a blowzy, adulterous, wanton woman.  I have not seen Gershon in a better role.

 Seems Chris owes his slimy, weaselly coke dealer, Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay)-who wears ill-fitting polyester jackets-thousands of bucks.  But of course, working with his dad in a body shop doesn’t pay much.  He discovers that his mother with whom he now lives along with her boyfriend, Rex,  has a substantial life insurance policy.  It is inferred that she did some horrible things to Chris and his sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), whom he loves and wants to protect.  She now lives with Ansel and Sharla and rarely leaves her bedroom.  Dottie, with her wispy blonde hair, nubile body, and blue eyes, is the picture of pristine innocence.  She also happens to be psychic; she knows things before they happen which unsettles her down to earth, nefarious relatives.  Here we have Cooper as the epitome of evil and Dottie as good.

McConaughey plays Killer Joe Cooper like Robert Mitchum did as Preacher Harry Powell, in “Night of the Hunter” (1955) which late critic Pauline Kael thought the most frightening film she’d ever seen; and “Cape Fear” (1961) as Max Cady: smooth, charismatic, and soft-spoken over a layer of extreme cruelty.
This film contains male and female frontal nudity (in your face nudity), suggestive sex, and a wealth of profanity, bloody, violent acts.  This is not a film for everyone.  However, no scene or action is gratuitous.  It all works.  Much of the dialogue is actually funny.  At times, you’ll even find yourself laughing.