Vote now in the 2021 Best of San Antonio Readers Poll.

Killer Joe strikes like an unapologetic Texas rattlesnake 

click to enlarge McConaughey with clothes and minus chicken drumstick. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • McConaughey with clothes and minus chicken drumstick.

If a film like 2011's sexually explicit British drama Shame taught us anything, it's that being slapped with a dreaded NC-17 rating these days doesn't always ensure a death sentence. Sure, its box-office numbers will be affected by those close-minded theater chains refusing to screen movies considered too provocative because of the MPAA label, but as the critically-acclaimed Shame proved, sometimes the content of a film is so essential to the story, it doesn't matter how uncomfortable it might be for some viewers. "I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter," Fox Searchlight Pictures' President Steve Gilula said last year about the film. "We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner."

The same can be said for the dark comedy thriller Killer Joe, but with a more tongue-in-cheek approach. Supporting the "artistic integrity" of Oscar-winning filmmaker William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tracy Letts, the studio decided to keep the film intact and not edit it down to a more desired R rating. It was the right choice, especially since its badge of honor was earned for one specific incident in the third act of the film featuring a fried chicken drumstick. Touch that scene in any way and Killer Joe is a different movie.

Never mind the full frontal nudity, language, or hardcore violence. Besides the KFC scene, there's nothing that hasn't been seen or heard before in other NC-17 or hard R-rated movies with one other exception. As the title character, a contract killer in Texas hired to murder a mother so her twisted family can collect on the insurance policy, Matthew McConaughey is dangerously good. As the head of this diamondback-rattlesnake-of-a-film, he strikes within a sadistic realm very few actors would dare to tread. Killer Joe's venom is extremely palpable, which makes it all the more disturbing to watch.

Killer Joe

★★★ (out of 5 stars)
Dir. William Friedkin; writ. Tracy Letts; feat. Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Scott A. Martin, Marc Macaulay (NC-17)

Tags:

Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

June 16, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Join SA Current Newsletters

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

© 2021 San Antonio Current

Website powered by Foundation