Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2011
Official Selection, South by Southwest 2012
“Full-frontal in every sense, an unabashed pulp romp stuffed with ugly acts and primal screams... Paper-cut sharp and horribly funny." — Catherine Shoard, GUARDIAN
William Friedkin, director of such landmarks as THE FRENCH CONNECTION, SORCERER and THE EXORCIST, has returned with the comeback of all comebacks, a whisky-hot, disturbingly funny Southern Gothic that pushes boundaries like few modern films dare. Chris (Emile Hirsch) is on the verge of being murdered for drug debts that he will never be able to pay. Desperate, he takes the one course of action that makes sense to him. That would be killing his mother for her life insurance benefits. His father (Thomas Haden Church), stepmother (Gina Gershon) and no-longer-a-kid sister (Juno Temple) aren’t about to get in the way. Quite the opposite! Together they reach out to Joe (Matthew McConaughey), a Dallas cop who moonlights as a contract killer. They thought they knew what struggle was. They’re about to learn a whole new meaning of the word.
At once a crime story, dark comedy and a ferocious work of confrontation, KILLER JOE is that wonderful, rare beast of a film, one that’s both wildly entertaining and deeply provocative. A compassionate, demented, tender and sadistic film, dripping with sex and fury, carved from a screenplay so sharp it could be classified as a dangerous weapon, this is filmmaking at its most essential and audacious. Hirsch, Temple, Gershon and Church are flawless. McConaughey delivers a career-defining performance that positively oozes evil and predatory sleaze, instantly obliterating his rep as a romantic comedy lead. Nobody — NOBODY — has the fire that Friedkin has. At the age of 77, he has made a film that is more vital and electrifying than anything the majority of Hollywood’s “freshest and brightest” could ever imagine. This is his second feature scripted by Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts, following the masterful BUG, and like that film, KILLER JOE is Friedkin back at the top of his game. It is the uncompromising work of a master filmmaker depicting one of the most twisted families the screen has ever seen. So startling, so black, so explosively transgressive a film this is, the MPAA had a collective heart attack when they saw it, immediately slapping KILLER JOE with an NC-17 rating. Friedkin and company held their ground and refused to cut a frame. Nothing will prepare you.
— Mitch Davis