In the opening scene of “Killer Joe,” Emile Hirch pounds on the door of a trailer in the pouring rain. Gina Gershon opens the door, completely undressed from the waist down. When he reacts in disgust, she says defensively, “I didn’t know it was you.”
And if you don’t think that line is funny, you probably won’t like this movie. But it made me laugh. The rest of the film is pitched in much the same way: it finds that fine line between horrifying and hilarious, and straddles it like a drunk barmaid on a mechanical bull. “Killer Joe” is about as twisted as they come, and certainly earns its NC-17 rating, though the primary offending scene isn’t what you might think: it involves a KFC drumstick in a way that might make you stay away from that particular fast food chain for a while after viewing this flick.
It’s about a trailer park family, led by Emile Hirsch but headed by Thomas Haden Church, who decide to kill their mama in order to collect on her life insurance policy. So they hire a professional, Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) to do the dirty work. But because they can’t pay him until they collect, he gets the dim-witted little sister (Juno Temple) as a “retainer” until then.
It’s trailer park noir, but it’s not all that noir-ish. Nothing goes wrong with the hit; no good cops or private dicks get involved to mess things up. It’s entirely about this messed up family, and the ways they try to play each other, fail to read the fine print, and generally end themselves up in noir situations.
It’s a great little movie, if you can take the violence and overcooked sexuality. McConaughey is excellent as the cold-blooded, addle-headed killer, Juno Temple plays a Manic Pixie Dream Girl gone all sour and fermenty, and Thomas Haden Church is as dumb as he is ugly. It’s a rollicking ride, over before it gets annoying, and one of the funnest little flicks I’ve seen in a while.
Verdict: Recommended, if you can take it. Don’t come complainin’ to me if you cain’t.