Jesus, Matthew McConaughy doesn't do things by half. Either he's headlining disposable rubbish that basically requires him to take his top off and drawl in that distinctive Southern accent of his; or he's playing a sociopathic serial killer with a penchant for underage girls. This dark comedic thriller is not only a welcome departure for McConaughy, but marks a return to form for one of the best directors of yesteryear - helmer of The Exorcist and The French Connection, William Friedkin.
The film opens with a desperate young hick (a great Hirsch) turning up at his father's (played by Haden Church) trailer in the middle of the night looking for cash. Explaining to his old man that he owes money pronto - or his knees will be liberated from the rest of his legs - he pitches a plan to him. His deadbeat mother has a life insurance policy for fifty grand. Thus they plot to hire a hitman to off her and reap the financial rewards. Problem is the policy is in the name of "touched" sibling (Temple) and the assassin they've hired (McConaughy) has taken somewhat of a shine to her.
Opening with a close-up of Gina Gershon's unshaved nethers and taking it pretty much from there, while Killer Joe is a very adult, provocative film, there's also a hint of comedy within it. That could be the inherent stupidity of some of the characters, or simply the deft hand that Friedkin uses to guide the ostensibly dark material. Either way, this is film noir done extremely well for the first time in a long time. The 70's stalwart has a trump card in the form of the titular Joe. Whenever he knocks on the trailer door, or coolly moves into frame, it's like an electric shock for the scene. This guy is constantly on edge, and you feel he is capable of anything.
McConaughy is fantastic. Joe is his Patrick Bateman, and he proves unequivocally, after years of starring in utter shit, that he still has the screen presence of a top tier movie star. Not many actors can pull off simultaneous fear and magnetism; you cannot take your eyes off Joe and everyone around him is basically a soundboard for the audience watching. It's a generally well played film by all concerned; Friedkin knows how to get the best out of actors, and everyone of the core cast here remind us of the superb work they can do - particularly Hirsch.
Challenging, provocative and incendiary; this is the best work from pretty much everyone involved in years.