William Friedkin has made few movies over the last five decades or so, and when I spoke with him on July 11, 2012, he explained his reasons. The man who made THE EXORCIST, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, and SORCERER is not a man to compromise what he wants to achieve in a film. His preferred subject, the examination of how people in extreme conditions react, is one that brooks no compromise in order to be effective. With KILER JOE, the result is a film that is brutal but fascinating, and which, per Friedkin, more than deserves its NC-17 rating.
A man with strong opinions, and an expansive, even avuncular, way with a convesation, he held forth on the undiscovered depths of Matthew McConaughey’s talents, why it would be foolish for him to judge the film’s characters, and the secret of getting spontaneity on film.
KILLER JOE is a tale of twisted moral compasses, family dynamics either gone wrong or brought into hi-definition, and the painful collision of dreams and reality. Matthew MacConaughey plays the title character, a Dallas police detective who moonlights as a contract killer with cold-eyed efficiency and a quirky sense of gallantry. Emile Hirsch is the good-hearted but luckless small-time drug dealer who needs his mother killed in order to get the insurance money that will save his life. Juno Temple is his holy fool of a winsome sister who catches Joe’s fancy, Gina Gerhson is the wicked step-mother in blue-eye shadow and no panties, and Thomas Haden Church is the hapless husband whose greatest aspiration is beer money and watching a monster truck rally on television. After watching the story play out, you will never think of contract killing, cigarette lighters, or fried chicken in quite the same way. Friedkin directed from a script by Tracy Letts, who also wrote the play. His previous work also includes and interviewing Fritz Lang shortly before that director’s death.