Killer Joe is one of those movies about a family so dysfunctional that it makes you feel satisfied with your own. Emile Hirsch, the central character and the son, is probably as normal as any son who has ever hired a professional to kill his mother, and Juno Temple is doing not badly for a girl whose mother tried to suffocate her. The father, Thomas Haden Church, is extremely unintelligent, and Gina Gershon, his second wife, is a bit of a tramp, if I may revive a term pretty much abandoned now. And none of them has what I would regard as anything like a normal moral sense.
Neither writer Tracy Letts, who won a Pulitzer Prize, nor director William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame tries to make any of these characters attractive though we may prefer any of them to Matthew McConaughey as the hired assassin with a yen for the daughter, a yen shared by her brother. Watching Killer Joe is like watching some lower-animal life under glass; you don’t FEEL what is going on, and you don’t want to. The prime curiosity is waiting to see how low these unlovable creatures will sink, that a good deal of quite appropriate semi-nudity and some realistically grisly violence with very smeary blood.
But it’s all very well done, the acting is totally convincing, with touches of comedy only w here it belongs and no sentimentality whatsoever. There are a lot of plot complications, but never any confusion except, in my case, inability to recognize the corpse, which was almost instantly identified in the dialogue, as though Letts and Friedkin, unusual in these times, actually wanted us to understand what was going on. All the characters are more complex than I make them sound and all are taken seriously like them or not.