Venice 2011 Review: William Friedkin’s KILLER JOE

What can I say? William Friedkin's new movie Killer Joe is one of the best films I have seen from a rather disappointing or at least underwhelming bunch of efforts from this year's Venice Film Festival.

Rating: ★★★★½

What can I say? William Friedkin’s new movie Killer Joe is one of the best films I have seen from a rather disappointing or at least underwhelming bunch of efforts from this year’s Venice Film Festival. This is not a cliched awards-baiting vehicle, nor a sequel, prequel or taken from a comic book. It’s just some good old fashioned writing and good acting.

The story is taken from an award winning play by Tracy Letts who is also credited with the screenplay. It revolves around young drug dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) who is in deep trouble as he owes money to some bad guys. So what to do? Why not kill your own mother who has a life insurance policy who’s beneficiary is unfortunately your younger sister, Dottie? Chris confides his plan to his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) a slow thinking man who just wants to work and have a cold beer while watching TV, but who gets dragged along into this story. Surprisingly he agrees and to everyone’s bafflement so does young Dottie who overheard the two talking about the murder.

The best thing to do in this case is to call an expert, so who could do a better job of bumping her off than Dallas Police Detective Joe Cooper who supplements his income by being a hit man? Matthew McConaughney plays the crooked cop and is completely at ease in this role of the cold blooded killer and gives a great performance throughout the whole film. Problem is that Chris and his dad have no money to pay Joe in advance so instead they agree to give him Dottie as a retainer. Dottie, played by Juno Temple, is just a sweet little girl who lives in a world of troubled adults, waiting for her prince charming to rescue her and Joe may actually be the one she was waiting for, if it wasn’t for the fact that he is a killer. But I don’t want to give away too much of the film.

William Friedkin directs a great cast of actors and gives us a story that mixes all the good ingredients for a successful film: drama, comedy, love romance, but also greed and betrayal. All the possible emotions that a human being has are portrait here in the film and it’s disturbing but enjoyable all the same time to watch this drama unfolds in front of our eyes. It’s a very real world of desperation where this characters live and is a faithful reproduction of what some real people have gone through and are going trough in their lives.

Friedkin has gifted us with many great films, most famously The French Connection and The Exorcist. His love and passion for filmmaking is clear and he has once more given us a good example of how films should be. He puts the rest of the festival to shame!


Killer Joe is set for release later this year.