Killer Joe - Blu-ray Review

'From the very start, the plot of Killer Joe, driven by Chris, is one with 'bad idea' written all over it.'

William Friedkin's dark and dirty Killer Joe takes place in a grubby stylisation of the American south, where 'virgin' is a dirty word and where blue lightning splinters across Caleb Deschanel's darkly-lensed skies frequently. If you're looking for beauty though, that's pretty much it. This is a film about ugly people perpetrating ugly deeds and, at times, it is as difficult a watch as has been reported.

Prowling at the centre as the titular assassin is Matthew McConaughey, whose sexually deviant Joe takes possession of Dottie (Juno Temple) early on as payment for killing Chris' (Emile Hirsch) mother, a contract undertaken with the blessing and guidance of Chris' father (Thomas Haden Church). From the very start, the plot of Killer Joe, driven by Chris, is one with 'bad idea' written all over it.

As the true awfulness of the initial idea begins to be borne out into action and reaction, Tracy Letts' screenplay of her own stage play teases out details of crossing and double crossing, culminating in a finale where everything and everyone comes to a head. Whilst the reveal is satisfying the end is not. Killer Joe spends a small amount of time explaining things, punctuates this with two shocking actions and then stands up, holds its hands high, and walks away. There's no end, as such, no complete resolution for anyone, and as the staging changes (notice how the trailer home seems to get bigger, especially in cross-section), it seems as though we have reverted back to viewing the stage play, with no film-centred satisfaction to speak of.

This questionable finale leaves the rest of the film with a gaping hole, a shame, given the good work from all of the cast (Haden Church, in particular, proves himself a droll genius, in a part which could have been throwaway) and the directing and cinematography, which runs to a very high standard often. A rewrite was certainly needed though, if only to add on an extra sixty seconds of runtime and give the audience the satisfaction they deserve at the end of what can be, at times, a pretty gruelling spectacle.

Killer Joe is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 5th November 2012.


  1. I thought the ending would prove to be a bit divisive for quite a lot of people. It punctuates itself with a question mark rather than a full stop but I think it works in terms of creating a talking point, if not a satisfying resolution.

    Despite that I enjoyed Killer Joe when I saw it in cinemas (if you can enjoy such a film). It's unabashed in how depraved it wants to be and didn't shirk from putting its characters in messy situations both literally and metaphorically.

    I certainly wouldn't want to be near McConaughey's Joe. Or any of them really!

    1. I'm normally an advocate of open-ended endings but I just felt with this, after all it puts you through, it really owes the audience a level of conclusion. Think the fact it comes so close to giving it makes it worse.

      And no, I don't want to spend any time with any of these people. Ever.