9. Killer Joe
Director: William Friedkin
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple
The power of a thunderous movie ending should never be underestimated. Even if everything that precedes a film’s closing scenes underwhelms, the last shot can send audiences out on a high that’ll make them forgive all of the inadequacies. Yet, what makes acclaimed director William Friedkin’s (The French Connection, The Exorcist) extremely pulpy and grimy, though unfairly NC-17-rated, Killer Joe such a complete success is that, yes, it has one of the craziest, entertainingly off-the-rails endings in recent years, but the film as a whole is a victory.
In screenwriter Tracy Letts’ adaptation of his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Matthew McConaughey serves a smoldering, combustible turn as a seedy Dallas cop, nicknamed Killer Joe whose side hustle involves killing folks for cash; his target of the moment is the good-for-nothing mother of a young, in-debt deadbeat (Emile Hirsch) from a dysfunctional trailer park family. Unable to pay Joe, Hirsch begrudgingly gives his cute space cadet of a little sister (Juno Temple) up as a “retainer.”
From there, Killer Joe fires on all trashy cylinders, gleefully offering up sex with a minor, corpses, brutal misogyny, and the most perverted use of a fried chicken leg imaginable. And the best part of it all: It’s a black comedy. One that’s funny as hell, in fact.