McConaisance: when an actor famous for being the butt of many a jokes due to the nature of his films decides, for some unbeknownst reason, to season his career with incredibly serious roles…and actually does it well. Back in 2011, this is exactly what Matthew McConaughey did: along with The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe helped transform McConaughey’s career in a matter of months and left audiences completely bewildered at the ‘new’ actor.

“If you insult me again, I will cut your face off and wear it over my own. Do you understand?”

When Chris (Emile Hirsch) has his stash of drugs stolen by his own mother, he concocts a plan with his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden church) and inconsequently his younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple) to kill his own mother and cash in on her $50,000 life insurance. To do so, Chris gets in contact with ‘Killer’ Joe Cooper (McConaughey), a detective who moonlights as a contract killer. The agreement turns complicated when unexpected events occur and Joe takes a shine to Chris’ younger sister as collateral.

Right from the off, Killer Joe sets itself apart from any other film, introducing quite possibly the most dysfunctional family in the world as Chris is kicked out of his mother’s house and forced to stop with his father and step-mother (Gina Gershon) after, we suspect, beating up his mum. The rain batters down on the ground and sets the mood for the rest of the film. We are quickly rushed into a strip club for a conversation that should probably be happening not in a public place, but this is the second clue that Killer Joe is going to be exciting, different and anything but what you expect.

“This is going to get done, one way or another.”

McConaughey is soon introduced and as soon as he appears he steals the show completely. Long gone is the man who made his career by taking his top off (although he does have a couple of scenes with his torso on show) and making dodgy romantic comedies. He carries the film with so much intensity; no longer a joke but now someone who can genuinely scare you. The character of Joe Cooper is an interesting and complex one and McConaughey brings him to life perfectly, you won’t want to take your eyes off him for a second, even if you don’t agree with everything that he does.

McConaughey is supported by a really fantastic cast who all more than hold their own. Emile Hirsch as a kid with a lot of front but no real guts is great, Thomas Haden Church does a really understated job but Juno Temple is the other star of Killer Joe. As the annoyingly cute and naive Dottie, you really warm to her character as she seems like the innocent victim here when Joe decides that until he gets paid he’s going to be keeping Dottie’s bed warm.

“Why don’t you do us all a big favor and just go kill yourself?”

There are real horrific moments in Killer Joe: it’s an incredibly brutal, morally questionable story but handled so well by director William Friedkin. Some of the scenes are particularly hard to watch from a moral standpoint but the film does a wonderful job of pulling you in that you are willing to be shocked and willing to be, at times, disgusted. At the same time there are jokes planted throughout the script that bring a darkly comic feel to the tone and make you feel guilty for even considering laughing due to the nature of the film.

Killer Joe is adapted from a play and that comes across. There’s a small cast which is often confined to houses and shacks to really constrain the story. All of this is handled with so much intensity, every thing that happens will have your heart pounding. The dialogue is delivered (once again by McConaughey in particular) in a manner that is just so addictive, characters are so interesting that you have no choice once you start watching but to get to the end. And the end is one hell of an ending that will leave you thinking for hours to come.

“Your eyes hurt.”

One of the best films I have ever seen.

My Rating: 10/10.

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