A cop who has an interesting past time as a hit man is taken on by a family who have their eyes on a fruitful life insurance payout.
Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is someone who owes a lot of money to a bunch of far more important people who will kill him if their favour is not repaid. His way out? After consulting his dad (Thomas Haden Church), he decides to hire Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother and cash in on her rather lucrative life insurance – the beneficiary of which is Chris’s sister Dottie (Juno Temple). However, things don’t go as smoothly as Chris originally had hoped and it seems Joe is going to have a far more imminent role in everyone’s lives than was first thought.
I honestly have no words to even begin describing Killer Joe. It was a film watched purely for the reason that McConaughey, someone who I’ve only recently become hugely aware of, was starring in it.as I’ve said before in my review for Dallas Buyers Club, the post-2010 McConaughey is easily one of the finest actors of the moment, and hopefully things will remain this way for some years. But I have to admit, I sat and watched Killer Joe this afternoon and the only thought running throughout my head for the entirety of the film and much of the rest of the afternoon was something along the lines of ‘WTF have I just watched?’ It was a question that crossed my mind when a father and son decided to kill a woman had evidently played a fairly important role in both of their lives; it was a question that crossed my mind when Joe got his hands off his (ahem) retainer; and it was a question that most definitely crossed my mind when that scene with the KFC took place. I have ABSOLUTELY no words.
Nonetheless, I can’t not give credit to some of the killer performances (see what I did there?). There was McConaughey who, as I’ve previously said, is brilliant in anything this side of 2010. This role, however, was completely different to anything I had seen him in before – fair enough. I’ve only knowingly seen him in The Lincoln Lawyer, True Detective and Dallas Buyers Club, but in all of these roles, his character was always crafty, often funny, and deep down, they had a good heart. However, Joe Cooper is something else altogether. I just didn’t know what to make of McConaughey in this role. Don’t get me wrong, he was very good at playing whatever Joe was, but this is exactly my point. Al I know is he is a cop come contract killer, but beyond that, I have absolutely no clue. Is he a murderous psychopath? Is he just a man with daddy issues? You just cannot tell. He is very difficult to watch, or at least I thought so, at one point early on in the film, but at the same time, there is so much mystery surrounding this guy that you just find yourself captivated.
Temple’s performance as Dottie was equally as good. Dottie’s mother attempted to smother her as a baby, but did not succeed. However, for sometime Dottie’s brain was deprived of oxygen, and this left her with some developmental delay. Temple portrayed this, and the vulnerability and innocence that came with it beautifully. Her and McConaughey’s chemistry together did as well when conveying to the audience the basis on which their relationship was built and the circumstances surrounding it. It was, at times, disturbing, but very well done all the same.
The point to this film still evades me. Personally, I think it should have been titled P.I. Joe due to the fact that Joe spent more time unearthing secrets about the family than what he had originally been sent there for in the first place. Also, I don’t really feel as though all the characters and all the events that took place really belonged in the same film. It just seemed a bit mismatched at times.
Overall, I wouldn’t say Killer Joe is a total miss, however I would say you need to bear in mind that this was one of McConaughey’s transitional films, so it certainly isn’t one of his greatest. Nevertheless, I did watch all of it, so in fairness, it couldn’t have been that bad. By all means, if you’ve an hour and a half to spare, give it a go – just don’t expect miracles to be performed on your TV screen.