Saturday, August 25, 2012

KILLER JOE (2011) review

Killer Joe (2011) (1st viewing) d. Friedkin, William (USA)

When trailer park living nogoodnik Emile Hirsch decides to do away with his stash-stealing mom in the hopes of cashing in her insurance policy to pay off his debts, he seeks out the services of ice-cold lawman/hitman Matthew McConaughey to do the deed. Adapted by Tracy Letts from his own stage play, the story is opened up beyond the confines of the trailer home, which reduces some of the claustrophobia but one can understand why Letts and Friedkin might not want to repeat themselves having already covered similar geographic ground (Bug’s motel room). While the assembled cast are a worthy bunch (Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple), the whiff of “Hollywood white trash” lingers over the proceedings in that these are clearly beautiful people trying to glam down for the project. Hirsch is the least successful of the bunch, never truly inhabiting his despicable character (a role originated 20 years ago onstage by a pitch-perfect Michael Shannon). Letts stays fairly true to his original text, and the stylized dialogue – think Mamet in the trailer park – has an artifice that never allows it to be truly immersive, but it’s still fascinating early material from the future Tony Award winner (August Osage County). On the whole, there’s enough to recommend the film, though like Bug before, it will likely prove divisive among viewers.

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