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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column 5.6.13 Issue #256: Killer Joe (2011)
Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz on 05.06.2013

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #256: Killer Joe (2011)

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that just can't shake the feeling that there's nothing out there staring back at me, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number two hundred and fifty-six, I finally take a look at the messed up crime flick from director William "Billy" Friedkin, Killer Joe, starring Matthew McConaughey.

Killer Joe (2011)

Killer Joe, based on a play of the same name by Tracy Letts (Letts also did the movie's screenplay), is a movie that revels in being deliberately outrageous. Outside of that need, the movie really isn't about anything at all. The movie certainly thinks it's about something other than being outrageous, but the reality is it's a small movie with a small story that goes nowhere (well, nowhere interesting).

Emile Hirsch stars as Chris Smith, a broke dumbass douchebag in serious need of cash. He owes big money to a psychopathic loan shark and has no real way of getting the money he owes outside of some big scheme. Chris' big scheme is to kill his estranged mother Adele in order to collect on her life insurance policy. Chris believes that his "slow" sister Dottie (Juno Temple) is the sole beneficiary on the policy and that he can convince Dottie to give him the money once the policy is paid. But first, Chris has to find a way to off his mother. He isn't going to do it himself (he's way too stupid to do it himself), so he decides to hire "Killer Joe" Cooper (McConaughey), a West Dallas, Texas police detective who moonlights as a sort of hitman. The problem with this plan is Chris doesn't have the money to hire Cooper, as Cooper requires $25,000 up front to do the deed. The fee is non-negotiable. Since he really, really, really wants the money, Chris strikes up a deal with Cooper in that he will allow Cooper to "keep" Dottie as a "retainer" until the life insurance money is collected. Once the money is paid, Cooper will get his fee, and the rest of the money will be split up amongst the rest of the Smith family (Chris will get a cut, Dottie will get her cut, and Ansel and Sharla, played by Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon, will get their cut). That, essentially, is the plot of the movie.

The first big problem with Killer Joe is Friedkin's direction. The movie deliberately plods along from scene to scene, mostly because Friedkin seems to believe that the movie can survive on the performances alone. While the performances are uniformly good (McConaughey and Church are excellent) they don't exist in a world they can do their best work in. It's almost like Friedkin tried to film a play instead of making a movie out of a play. The movie essentially takes place in one setting, the Smith family trailer. Why doesn't Friedkin try to make that place interesting? It's a dump with very little going on inside (the big TV that Ansel can't stop watching is sort of interesting, but that's about the only thing that "works" there). Why don't we see the family's individual bedrooms, the bathrooms, perhaps the shed that's outside in the yard? I mean, does almost everything happen at night so Friedkin can hide the fact that this was a relatively low budget movie?

The flick's second big problem is its script. The movie never really explains why Killer Joe Cooper, a hitman with a series of rules that he says again and again he will not break, breaks his own rules by "keeping Dottie as a retainer." I don't believe for a second that he would ever do anything like that, even if he "fell in love" with Dottie and wanted to make her his wife. I also find it hard to believe that Cooper would ever want to install himself into the Smith family (or really any family). He just isn't that kind of guy. He's an extreme loner. And if the movie is titled Killer Joe why isn't it about him? Why is it instead about the Smith family? And if it's going to be about the Smith family, why does it even need Killer Joe Cooper to be an actual character in the movie? It's not like Cooper and the Smith's work off one another.

And then there's the "outrageous stuff," specifically the scene involving Sharla, Cooper, and a "K Fried C" chicken leg, the one scene that no doubt helped the movie score an NC-17 rating. It's a disturbing scene, sure, but, to me, it isn't as disturbing as the "date" between Cooper and Dottie. You're never really told Dottie's age (Friedkin states in the "making of" on the DVD that Dottie is 21, but I don't think I'm the only one who thought that she was much younger than that). Is it possible that Cooper is a pedophile on top of being a sadistic hitman? Why does he want her so bad? If I'm watching what I think I'm watching, what Gina Gershon's character, a grown woman, is forced to do just a disgusting piece of misogyny. It isn't a massive crime against humanity.

Now, had Friedkin taken the characters and some of the play's plot and then started from scratch and made the movie specifically about Killer Joe Cooper, Killer Joe might have worked. Maybe Cooper can't get it up around a "strong woman" or even a strong willed hooker and he ends up killing them, but for whatever reason he becomes infatuated with Dottie, a young girl that doesn't come off as much of a threat (easily malleable). He's very into women that will do what he wants them to do. At least that scenario would make something like Dottie's big revelation at the end meaningful.

As I said, the performances, despite the generally poor movie they're forced to be in, are excellent. McConaughey is amazing as Killer Joe Cooper. He just oozes menace, much in the same way he oozed menace in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. The movie should have been about him. It really should have been. Hirsch oozes expert stupidity as Chris Smith, the man responsible for hatching the big Joe Cooper plan. He's fun to watch but you don't like him at all (the only time you feel any sympathy for him is when he's chased by two bikers working for the loan shark he owes money to. Chris may be a dipshit but no one deserves to be beaten by two gigantic bikers). Thomas Haden Church, though, is fun to watch as Ansel Smith. It's amazing to think that he's managed to live as long as he's had without accidentally killing himself.

Juno Temple does a great job as the slow Smith daughter Dottie. You're never aware if she understands what's going on around her but you're sure you want her to get out of there. Being around Cooper isn't a good thing, though. And then there's Gina Gershon, who is probably the bravest actor in the entire movie. She's forced to walk around without pants on the first time we see her, she's forced to wear unflattering clothes, and, at the end, she's forced to do something with a piece of fried chicken that no one should be forced to do. Even if she isn't an appealing character, you're still kind of sad to see what happens to her. Sharla may be a piece of garbage, but she deserves to be nicely placed in the garbage bag, doesn't she?

While I didn't particularly like Killer Joe, I wouldn't mind seeing McConaughey tackle this particular character again. He probably won't since Killer Joe bombed at the box office, but I think it would be cool if someone put the character is a different story, a story that's all about him. I think people would show up to see that movie (and, based on this performance, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Escape from New York remake producers to give McConaughey a call. He would make for an interesting Snake Plissken).

I didn't like Killer Joe, but it's worth checking out anyway, just to see what the heck the big deal is. Maybe you'll "get" the movie more than I did. It isn't very good, but it is sort of an interesting failure for Friedkin. Sort of.

See Killer Joe. Just don't be surprised if, in the end, you think it stinks.

"Stinks? Well, now... this is serious fucking business."

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 1

Explosions: One. It's kind of big.

Nudity?: Yes, And it's all pretty disturbing. Even the strip club scene.

Doobage: A clicking Zippo lighter, a burning barrel, "hairy bush," face slapping, a lack of pants, a gross strip club, talk of cocaine, pot smoking (maybe), sleepwalking, TV kung fu, welding, an abandoned pool hall, infatuation, pizza making, disgusting pictures, "used" beer, monster trucks on TV, talk of Oklahoma, a gross looking tuna casserole, a very disturbing pre-sex scene, horse racing, biker assholes, a brutal beating, talk of a rabbit farm, a car fire with explosion, a funny string pulling incident, verbally attacking Texas, illegal gun buying, "K Fried C" eating, TV smashing, beatings, face punching, chicken leg sucking, barfing, potential ejaculation, a family dinner, iced tea and potato salad, knife to the back, a can of pumpkin pie mix to the face several times, bullet to the stomach, and a sudden ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: A guy clicking a Zippo lighter, Gina Gershon walking around without pants, and old black and white movie on TV, Thomas Haden Church, Thomas Haden Church not wearing pants, Mathew McConaughey, some very disturbing pictures, talk of "pure love," talk of a "fat kid," Mathew McConaughey talking about Oklahoma, a gross looking tuna casserole, dress modeling, sock removal, a very disturbing pre-sex scene, horse racing, Mathew McConaughey butt naked, Thomas Haden Church wearing a baseball hat with a suit, a funny string pulling incident, "K Fried C," people eating "K Fried C," TV smashing, a funny interrogation, face punching, chicken leg sucking, potential ejaculation, a family dinner, and a sudden ending.

Best lines: "Shut up, T-Bone!," "Put some clothes on for Christ's sake!," "It's a bit distracting with your hairy bush staring me in the face," "Don't die in your sleep!," "You ever hear of Joe Cooper?," "What are you doing here?," "I heard y'all talking about killing mama. I think it's a good idea," "No, he was not all right. He set his genitals on fire," "Our conversation is finished. I never met you. You never met me," "Just how stupid are you?," "I said no black olives," "Hey, can I get some money? I'm out of beer," "That's right, junior. Don't push it," "Casserole smells nice," "I'm not sure why we did that, but it makes me mad," "Your eyes hurt," "I'm a virgin. I know," "I'd really like to see that dress," "How is Amy?," "Aren't you supposed to arrest people who commit murder?," "Ansel, don't make a scene!," "Who told you about Killer Joe?," "Hey, Chris, why don't you go do us all a favor. Kill yourself," "I'm always excited," "Funerals make people hungry for some reason," "Like I say, however much," "Is that your duck, Ansel?," "Where did he say he was going? He was unavailable for comment," "If you insult me again I'll cut your face off and wear it over my own," "Reach around and grab my ass!," "Do you want some potato salad?," and "I'm gonna have a baby!"

Rating: 5.8/10.0



The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!

Please check out The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which can be seen here. There's not much there at the moment, but, as time goes by, expect to see daily questions and musings and other B-movie hooey. And it would be cool if you "liked" it, too.

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page! Yeah!


Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 1

- Jack Reacher: This Tom Cruise vehicle wasn't the big hit that Paramount thought it was going to be, but it made just enough money worldwide to justify a sequel. I'm very cool with that. I loved this movie, think it's one of Tom Cruise's best performances, and I can't wait to see it again. Awesome stuff.

- Fringe Season 5: I just finished watching the fourth season of Fringe and have the entire season five run sitting on my DVR just waiting to be watched so I have no idea how good/bad season five is/was. I've been a fan of the show since the beginning, though, so I'll watch anyway.

- Flashpoint Season 5: One of the best TV shows no one watched, at least here in the United States, Flashpoint was a different kind of cop show. It was a police procedural, sure, but it had a very different rhythm than the usual police procedural. The cast was also amazing (I'm still annoyed that Enrico Colantoni never got an Emmy nomination for this show). If you never bothered to watch this because it was "just another cop show on CBS," do yourself a favor and give it a shot. It's way better than you think it is. Way better.

- Mama: I skipped this "scary" ghost movie when it was in theaters, mostly out of protest at having seen the preview for it about five thousand times (It was like Chernobyl Diaries). It did get good reviews, so it has that going for it (not to mention Guillermo del Toro produced it). Worth a rental at some point.

- In the Hive: This "urban" drama is directed by the great comedian Robert Townsend, a name I haven't heard in forever. Michael Clarke Duncan, Loretta Devine, and Vivica A. Fox appear. Definitely worth checking out based on the cast alone.


The Big Question: Why hasn't anyone invented a "soft" bathtub?

Lots of people apparently die every year from head injuries after slipping and falling in their bathtubs. I heard that in a TV commercial selling a "stand up bath," which is really just a shower with a seat in it. I guess there's very little chance of slipping and falling backwards while trying to stand up in one of these "stand up baths," although I wouldn't be surprised to find out that that happens, too. And it seems to happen because the bath tub, or the "stand up bath" shower thing, is made out of hard tile or some kind of steel or stone, materials with very little "give" in them. Now, if this slipping and falling is such a big deal and so dangerous, why hasn't anyone invented a "soft" bathtub?

And by "soft" I mean constructed with materials that prevent the kinds of head injuries that plague regular showers and bathtubs. Why can't someone create a bathtub that's made out of material similar to gym mats? Gym mats have "give" in them, they're sturdy to a certain extent, and no one has suffered a horrible head injury from a gym mat (as far as I know, anyway).

There is something I saw online called a "soft tub," but that looks like some kind of hot tub. It isn't a tub that, if you slip and fall in it, won't give you brain damage or injure you horribly.

So what's going on here, people? Why isn't there a "soft bathtub" out there for people to buy and use? No money in it? Impossible to construct? Is it a cultural thing (do people just like "hard" bath tubs?)?


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Theme of the Week



Do you have Fearnet?

Fearnet, the only free all horror/thriller On Demand TV network features uncut, uncensored horror flicks from the past and present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, pretty much any time you freaking want them (as long as you still have power, that is). The channel also has behind-the-scenes stuff, trailers, and other cool hooey for you to check out. Check your local cable listings for availability (According to the Fearnetwebsite more and more Time Warner and Cox Cable areas are getting the channel. Be sure to go here to see if Fearnet is coming to your area).

Fearnet also exists as a regular old TV channel. This Fearnet airs horror movies roughly twenty one hours a day (there is a block of infomercials in the morning, usually from 6-9am est). The movies shown do have "commercial breaks" in them, similar to the breaks that currently appear on IFC, but the movies are uncut (blood and boobs and cursing are all intact).

Fearnet's website, fearnet.com, offers free movies, interviews, news, and other behind-the-scenes horror movie nerd stuff, too. The Last Exorcism was on the site last week. Is it still there? Check and see).

The website also features Post Mortem with Mick Garris, a nifty interview show where big, fat Stephen King's favorite director talks with genre legends like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Roger Corman, and others. It's definitely worth your time.

If you're a Facebook nerd (and, really, today, who isn't?) you can check out the Fearnet fans Facebook page, which can be seen here. There are plenty of people out there interested in Fearnet. Join them. And, as always, thanks to both Mark Lindsey and Mathew Hirsch for info regarding the Fearnet fan movement.


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Babe of the Week: Gina Gershon


Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 2

- Hayride: This low budget slasher flick, featuring the great Richard Tyson for some reason, doesn't look all that promising, but I'm willing to give it a shot anyway simply because I've seen oodles of decent slasher flicks with terrible trailers. I could review this full on in October as part of the Slasher Movie Celebration, so be on the lookout for that, too.

- Wolf Head: I don't know much about this low budget crime thriller. The trailer is pretty cool, though, so it's worth a rental at least. I wonder, though, is the movie as funny as the trailer suggests it is? Anyone out there see this?

- The Mark 2: Redemption: I haven't reviewed many low budget Christian movies in this column, mostly because they're all so fucking awful. But I may end up checking this movie out since both Eric Roberts and Gary Daniels are in it for some reason. Why did they do it? A paycheck? Was that it?

- A Sierra Nevada Gunfight: A low budget western starring Michael Madsen and John Savage? Why the hell wouldn't I want to watch it? And check out Madsen's hair in the trailer. He's rocking the long hair, isn't he?

- Mutantz, Nazis, and Zombies: I'm not familiar with any of the movies in this 3 pack from the fine folks at Troma, but I'm willing to give them a shot simply because the fine folks at Troma are releasing them in a 3 pack. The movies are: The Secret of the Magic Mushrooms, Attack of the Tromaggot, and Teen Ape Vs. The Monster Nazi Apocalypse. They all sound pretty dang cool.


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week

This week, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week goes to incoming NRA president James Porter, for being a full on racist. Porter is on record calling President Obama a "fake president" and the U.S. Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression." Porter has also called the President's half-assed new gun control measures (you know, the ones that were voted down in Congress) proof of an ongoing "culture war" between real Americans and "gun takers" and "people who hate freedom."

What bullshit. And how can the NRA get away with installing a fucking racist as its president? I mean, there's just no getting away from this, there's no attempting to alter what this guy has said. There's no fucking context here to take him out of.

Again, this is all bullshit, and if the NRA isn't laughed out of the country after this there is something deeply wrong with the world. Deeply wrong.

And then there's Douchebag Hall of Famer Cal Thomas, for this absolutely appalling column complaining about how the Obama administration "refuses to label terrorists terrorists" and "blames Israel for every bad thing in the Middle East." Cal's claims would be pretty outrageous if they were true, but since they're not even close to being true Cal is just being a typical right wing douchebag. The President and his administration didn't come right out and call the Boston bombers terrorists because they wanted to find out who the bombers were before making any, for the lack of a better phrase, definitive statements. As for Obama blaming everything on Israel, how many times does Obama have to say that he stands with Israel, that Israel is an American ally, and that Israel has a right to defend itself?

Cal, please, stop the bullshit. It's ridiculous. And you should also get some sensitivity training. After reading this column, it's pretty obvious you need professional help to deal with your racism.

And finally there's The New York Times, for its horrendous review of Iron Man 3 last Friday. Instead of talking about the movie itself, the Times' reviewer Manhola Dargis goes off on a tangent about how Hollywood in general is insensitive to terrorism and just isn't in the business of making "smart" movies for adults (or "thinking people"). It's just explosions, explosions, explosions.

And Steven Soderbergh isn't going to make movies anymore because of this unending need for explosions. Steven Soderbergh! How will thinking people be able to think anymore? How?

I don't have anything else to say here. It's just more half-assed liberal whining. And that's just appalling.


Indycar and NASCAR thoughts

So I missed the Indycar race from Brazil due to circumstances beyond my control (it's no fun being called into work unexpectedly on a Sunday). From everything I've read about it the street race was "pretty good." I did see some highlights of the race on youtube and the cars seemed a tad racier than usual. There was a last lap pass for the win, with Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe picking up his second victory of the year and Long Beach winner Takuma Sato second. It'll be interesting to see if both Hinchcliffe and Sato can take this momentum to Indianapolis and be contenders. Indy tends to be a completely different deal from the other races on the schedule.

What the hell happened to Will Power? He's usually the driver to beat in Brazil, but this year he started in the back because of a qualifying issue and then finished in the back after suffering some kind of mechanical failure. Power's Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves (tax cheat) also had similar issues. And Ganassi didn't have a great day, either. Dario Franchitti finished seventh, and Scott Dixon was 18th. Hopefully, for their sake, Indy is better for them.

And that's what's next for the Indycar Series. Indianapolis. Qualifying is the week before the race, May 18th and 19th, with the 500 the following Sunday. The Speed Channel website claims that there will be at least 34 cars attempting to qualify for the race. It sounds like we'll actually have a real "Bump Day" this year.

As for NASCAR, I did manage to see the Nationwide race on Saturday and the last quarter of the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. The Nationwide race was pretty decent for Talladega. And it was cool to see Regan Smith pull a race win essentially out of thin air. I'm not a fan of the "tandem racing" thing, but the Nationwide guys managed to put on a pretty good show. Daytona should be interesting in July.

As for the Sprint Cup race, I know I sure as heck didn't think David Ragan would be in the thick of it at the end. I didn't think his teammate David Gilliland would be, either. But there they were, up front, in a position to win at the end. I really thought Jimmie Johnson was going to find a way to freight train Matt Kenseth and everyone else by going on the bottom. That didn't happen, though. I could have done without the "I need to thank the Lord" nonsense at the end, but kudos to Ragan and Gilliland for showing that, at least at the restrictor plate tracks, anyone can win.

That big wreck towards the end of the race was ridiculous. JJ Yeley should flip out on Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Stenhouse is the one that caused that wreck. He had absolutely no business trying to go that high. And blaming Yeley for "not committing" and failing to follow through? Bullshit.

And how about Ryan Newman's interview after the wreck? I'm sure NASCAR will fine him, but what he said had to be said. Ha.

Darlington is next for both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, with Nationwide on Friday and Cup on Saturday. I'll hopefully get a chance to watch most of each race. That's the plan, anyway.


Well, I think that'll be about it for this issue. B-movies rule, always remember that.

If there's anything you want to see reviewed here in this column, feel free to offer a comment below or send me an e-mail. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff to watch.

And don't forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

Killer Joe

Mathew McConaughey- Killer Joe Cooper
Emile Hirsch- Chris Smith
Juno Temple- Dottie Smith
Thomas Haden Church- Ansel Smith
Gina Gershon- Sharla Smith
Marc Macaulay- Digger Soames

Directed by William Friedkin
Screenplay by Tracy Letts, based on a play by Tracy Letts

Distributed by Lionsgate

Runtime- 102 minutes

Buy it here


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