Killer Joe, Movie Reviews By Kyle Phoenix

 I've seen this movie twice within a few weeks.  The second time I went with a female friend and I warned her continuously that this movie was lurid.  By the time we were at the theater I had to upgrade it to vulgar.  This movie is intentionally all of that and slightly more.  But it's also a good movie.  It's virulently misogynistic and gory and each character is a sociopath in their own way, hence why this movie is NC-17. 

The plot is simple, Killer Joe played by Matthew McConaughey  is hired by Chris Smith played by Emile Hirsch to kill his mother for the insurance money that his slightly spacey sister Dottie Smith played by Juno Temple  is the beneficiary.  Their father Ansel played by Thomas Haden Church and stepmother Sharla Gina Gershon are also in on it.  But Chris lacks the money upfront to pay Joe so Joe takes Dottie as a sexual retainer.  Chris though has an incestuous flavored relationship with his sister and eventually the insurance scam unravels and the mutual chauvinistic possessiveness erupts into all out warfare within the family.

We want the characters to be simplistically "stupid" but they all act out of their motivations and even Ansel, the father who's willing to forsake everyone else stays to the side like a smart rabbit, who knows he can't beat any of the tigers but can survive if he aligns properly.  Sharla and Dottie are constantly degraded by the men around them though they have an affection and caring between the two of them that may work out in the end.  Chris, as the drug dealing, money owing, sister pimping/incestuous matricidal brother is so grimy and yet pathetically sad as he explains how his life has fallen apart.  We get to see in a brief scene with him and Killer Joe his simple humanity, his desire for a life of some value and how circumstance and happenstance robbed him and forced him back into the dysfunctional world he's grown up in.

The question the audience is left with though is how naive is Dottie.  In the end, originally a sexualized object by Joe, her father, her brother, she makes her move for liberation.  She even warns out of nowhere earlier in the film that no one should make her "mad".  She's even good with having her mother killed.  On initial viewing Dottie seems like another victim of all of these out of control people but by the end, no money in sight for any of them, Dottie takes advantage of a chaotic situation as well as uses everyone's underestimation of her to lash out at them.  The most pivotal scene is at the end when Dottie's finger goes from outside of the finger hole to within at the gun trigger, her target lined up.  Does Dottie fire?  I think she does and with that, there's a pyrrhic victory for the women.
Why pyrrhic?  Because Gina Gershon,a  good actress, a pretty woman, goes to the edge of morality and viciousness and brutality in the film.  She's forced to perform the most outlandish and graphically humiliating sexual act, which besides the constant nudity of all the major stars, garners the NC-17 rating.     

It's shocking and startling and there are only two choices: go on the roller coaster and laugh in shock or get up and walk out.  Stay, I suggest, watch the art that this film, directed by William Friedkin and written by Tracy Letts, based on his play.   With a running time of 103 minutes the rated NC-17 (for graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality) isn't a date film but you'll never forget having seen it.  And McConaughey, a very good, generally likable actor will probably be a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination from this and Magic Mike.


Thanks and enjoy!  Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Time Warner Cable, Verizon Fios or Comcast or the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast on http://kylephoenixsite.com/

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