You’ll never see an Ad for KFC like This Again: KILLER JOE

Killer Joe KFC

Where do you start with this one? It’s described as a black comedy so maybe I approached it in a state of innocence.  I mean, I get the ‘black’ part but did I miss the ‘comedy’?  Was it one scene that went over my head?  Well, unless unexpected, shocking violence is funny (and of course, horribly enough, it can be).  Hell, I thought that I had a sense of humour as warped as the next guy; but in this case the next guy is a mass murderer with some serious sexual perversions.

Well, no.  Not really.  He’s actually Matthew McConaughey.  You know the man.  Good actor, but often wastes his talents on junk that has it written into the script that he must remove his shirt every ten minutes. Forget that.  I’m going to have to assume that the fella playing the charming Joe Cooper is his evil twin brother and Matthew has just let him use his name.  Because this version is terrifying, I kid you not. After seeing Killer Joe you will never look at Kentucky Fried Chicken the same way again.

There is this family, see; and that’s kind of a loose term here.  Now unless you watch a lot of Rob Zombie movies (I confess to a weakness for the man) you will rarely have come across such a dysfunctional bunch of lowlifes.  That American psychobabble term ‘dysfunctional’ is in fact highly appropriate here as this gang of trailer park outcasts looks and acts as if they escaped from a banned episode of the Jerry Springer Show. You would not have this bunch move in next to you and expect your property to go up in value, that’s for sure.

Chris (Emile Hirsch) is the one who gets it all rolling. When he gets in deep with some drug runners he decides—as you would—that the only thing to do that makes any sense is to hire the aforementioned Joe ‘Killer’ Cooper, a Dallas cop with a sideline as a hit man, to murder their mother for the insurance money.  Naturally his father, the dim but…no, just dim Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) thinks that this is a great idea.  So does his second wife, the trashy- but- sexy Sharla (Gina Gershon).

Then there’s Dottie, who pretty much seals the deal as far as Cooper is concerned.  Played with subtle style by Juno Temple, you’re never quite sure if this virginal Lolita-type is as spaced- out of it as she seems.

In fact, it’s hard to single out one actor over another, so good are they.  Obviously McConaughey is the guy you’ll remember, though. The bizarre scene with the KFC is probably as close to really nasty pornography as you can get in a mainstream movie.

I’ll be surprised if some reviews resist making jokes about American Pie.  I’m not going to bother, because as well made as this is by director William Friedkin after a period of forgettable efforts, it’s just downright unpleasant.  And yes, that is indeed the Friedkin of such fare as The Exorcist, The French Connection and Cruising. As to the latter movie there, trust me:  this one will make you long for the good taste of that simple movie about a gay sadomasochistic serial killer.

You’ll either be into this or you won’t.  There are two things that I do admire Friedkin for here:  he has refused to censor it for the studios and he’s right. Love it or loath it, if you started cutting this film there wouldn’t be anything left.  The other thing is that I would never have guessed until the end credits that this was based on a play (by Tracy Letts, who also does the screenplay).  Talk about opening a stage piece out!

Check this out by all means, but be warned:  it’s very nasty, creepy and you might just want a hot shower afterwards; but unless you are a bit of a pervert yourself then you probably won’t want the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Author: Charley Brady

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