Sunday, October 28, 2012

“Killer Joe” – William Friedkin (2012)

It is my sad duty to inform you that "Killer Joe" does not mark filmmaker William Friedkin's return to his former glory.

2006's underrated "Bug" notwithstanding, Friedkin hasn't done much worth our attention since "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist."

The director has floundered in mediocrity since the '70s, even making some flat-out bad films like "Jade" and "Rules of Engagement."

"Killer Joe" focuses on the Smith family.  When Chris gets himself in trouble with more debt than he can handle, the Smiths decide to hire a hit man to kill his mother so they can split her insurance money.

Enter the title character, a menacing cop who kills people on the side.

The problem is the Smiths can't pay Joe up front, so they work out a deal.  Joe gets full use of Dottie, the baby of the family, as a kind of retainer.

Inevitably, things go terribly wrong, but we don't really seem to care about the troubles heaped onto the Smiths.  Each of them is so detestable they frankly deserve to have Joe in their lives.   

The family's misfortunes are more than warranted.

I’m by no means someone who needs likable characters to enjoy a film, but try as it might, “Killer Joe” is no “Blue Velvet.”

There is one scene involving a piece of chicken and a battered Gina Gershon that brings to mind Dennis Hopper’s “MOMMY!” scene in “Blue Velvet.”  But Joe is no Frank Booth.

Frank was nightmarish and creepy, where Joe is unsettling at best.

Actually, the film's most menacing moments don't feature Joe at all, but Chris's debtor, Digger, played by character actor Marc Macaulay.  He only has one scene, but Macaulay delivers the film's best performance.  Frankly, I wanted to see more of Digger.

There are some melodramatic moments in the film, but not enough to sustain the thriller throughout.

The bottom line is, while "Killer Joe" is bold and at times tense, but it just isn't very good.

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