Not everyone is going to like Killer Joe but you might

Thursday June 7th 2012


My deepest sympathies are with the good people at eOne, who this month have the unenviable challenge of convincing audiences to shell out their hard-earned cash for Killer Joe, one of the least marketable A-list movies ever made. Despite a cast list including Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church and Matthew McConaughey (in his grubby new post-topless phase) the film simply has too much going on, too many tonal shifts, and way too much ‘sexual threat’ for the vast majority of mainstream audiences. And even making up Hirsch to look like Josh Brolin won’t help you overcome those insurmountable obstacles:

If McConaughey’s other recent rednecksploitation movie The Paperboy took your brain out for a nice dinner and then made inappropriate advances in the car park afterwards, Killer Joe is that more traditional brand of mindfuck — misanthropic, cruelly funny and largely immune to criticism. Unsurprisingly, It ran into certification trouble in the States after the MPAA refused to back down on their prohibitive NC-17 ruling, but over here the BBFC surprised their critics by passing the film uncut at 18, despite some potentially troublesome content in the I Spit On Your Grave vein.

There’s certainly plenty to be offended by, with the film wearing its flagrant misogyny like a badge of honour — most notably in a scene that recalls Nerd Hunting in its grotesque amalgamation of rough sex and fried chicken — but to pick out any one transgression in Killer Joe is to minimise its overall achievement in crafting one of the least affable movies in recent memory. And whatever your gut reaction to the film, that’s something that demands a modicum of respect — not least for the uniformly committed cast, who bring a sense of perverse charm to their monstrous hick caricatures.

If you happen to be knocking around Edinburgh in a couple of weeks’ time, you’ll have a chance to see the film in what’s probably its most flattering environment: a massive, packed-out cinema filled in equal measure with detractors and devotees, offering up the chorus of mixed outrage and approval that the film so badly craves. Sadly, it’s arthouses all the way after that.