Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Cinema in Cambridge, where I got carded for NC-17. Me and my fucking baby face.
When idiot drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) finds himself in debt for several thousand dollars to a local mobster, he hatches a plan to kill his mother so he can claim her life insurance plan. He brings in his father (Thomas Haden Church) and step-mother (Gina Gershon), conspiring to hire a cop known as Killer Joe (Matthew MacConaughey), who works as an assassin on the side. Joe agrees to do the job and get paid his fee once they get the insurance money, but takes Chris's pretty sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as collateral. Of course, nothing goes as planned and soon the whole family is in deep shit with a terrifying sociopath.
Killer Joe stands out primarily for its performances, especially Matthew MacConaughey and Juno Temple. He is creepy as hell as well as brutally funny, continuing to prove himself more versatile in his more recent roles. She brings a mixture of innocence and self-assurance that makes her character the most formidable of all, as those around her underestimate her maturity and understanding. Thomas Haden Church is great in a supporting role as Ansel, the put-upon patriarch whose easygoing nature and alcoholic retreat allow him little control over his own fate. I was also impressed with Emile Hirsch, who gets uglied up really fast so his acting stands out more than his considerable good looks.
With a decidedly dark streak of humor and little in the way of moral reservations or limitations, Killer Joe is summed up as intense... but also funny. It's an at-times strange mix of the two but works primarily as a straight thriller. Its moments of levity are often unexpected, offering breaks in the tense and generally seedy atmosphere. I was genuinely uncomfortable during several scenes, and while I realize that's pretty much the point, it didn't exactly endear the film to me. I had expected a lot of gore or weird sex stuff from the NC-17 rating, but it's really the general ickyness of Joe and his interactions that got to me. Shudder.
And I can tell you that I definitely won't want to eat fried chicken for quite some time.
Pair This Movie With: Buhh I thought of one as I was watching but then I forgot, darn it all. I haven't seen Bug but that's the main other Tracy Letts work I know of. Or if you want to see Juno Temple naked some more there's Kaboom.