Killer Joe review

Pick for the Weekend: Killer Joe (2011)

– Killer Joe is the movie for the weekend. In this section every Saturday or Sunday Celluloid Dimension picks a movie for the weekend. The selections are preferably underrated movies or neglected movies that we think should get more attention. Have fun with these recommendations. –

Killer Joe (2011) Directed by William Friedkin

A nasty movie about nasty people…it’s also one of the most underrated gems of the last few decades. William Friedkin’s abusively pessimistic film is the kind of movie in which hopelessness is absolute, a profoundly callous depiction of the abandonment of any existing morality and a sadistic postmodern social manifesto of the implacable embrace of human miserabilism in the abyss of the most self-destructive nihilism. Matthew McConaughey plays the cold-blooded killer Joe, a police detective who is also a hit man. Ansel Smith (Thomas Haden Church) and his son Chris (Emile Hirsch) – the father a somewhat dim-witted ignoramus and his son a drug dealer – decide to hire the services of killer Joe to murder Chris’ mother, so they can both collect life insurance and pay off their infamous debts. However, Joe is a professional, and he is very demanding, not only charging exorbitant sums for two people living in a trailer park, but asking them as part of their payment to sleep with the childish, introverted and virginal Dottie (Juno Temple), Ansel’s daughter and Chris’s sister. One would think that this Southern gothic film robustly shot with atmospheric hostility by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel is a tragedy, conservatively speaking; yet tragedies have primary, secondary and tertiary phases in which they feed the dramatic monster a few at a time until it is released in a brutal and unexpected ending, here the monster is fed from the start.

The turbulent sensationalist exordium, in which we meet for the first time the squalid lives of our remorseless protagonists, is already a deadly premonition of their destiny. Persuasion is practically nil, for there is no need to be persuasive when a script written with such visceral depravity and contempt for the human species is aggressively evident. The sleazy story is based on the 1993 play of the same name written by Tracy Letts who also wrote the adaptation. The only literary device to hold our attention is its brutal humor and sly wickedness, this does not belong to the art of persuasion, it belongs to the art of irony. The grotesque irony of the human being that William Friedkin’s draconian direction emphasizes arouses a certain uncomfortable pleasure, if an oxymoron is valid in this case. The reality is that the scabrous atmosphere surrounding the lives of each character makes you witness the most execrable facets of the human being, the incisively materialistic vision of savage vicissitudes that cry out for the supernaturalness of merciful hopes reduces the meaning of life to nothing in this film. There’s a certain poetry to it that I find both unpleasant and pleasurable, and the simple fact that its pitiless black humor is articulated as a misanthropic mockery of the human spirit demonstrates the film’s commitment to not redeeming any of its characters in this plot and leaving them in the darkness of the abyss. Depressing as hell, darkly funny in the most macabre way and acted with morbid gusto. While the film lacks the concentrated energy and meticulous classicism of Friedkin’s other films and while the frivolous pleonasm of sexual hyperviolence is exploitative, the controversial themes are still here, fresher than ever.


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