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Killer Joe


sidewaysgaze
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I watched Killer Joe yesterday and it's been bugging me all night... I have to sound off about the film.

 

I'm not sure why I wanted to watch it in the 1st place, but I tend to watch all sorts of movies.

 

MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS follow. Read at your own risk...

 

So, in my opinion, Killer Joe (2011, directed by William Friedkin from a play by Tracy Letts) by is a deep fried piece of pointlessness wrapped up in the crime noir and black comedy genres. The crime noir in the movie could have been really good, but instead it was just OK, and the black comedy at 1st was a bit fun, but then got tedious and obvious.

 

The film is extremely exploitative of women and some scenes feel like they're there for shock value and nothing else.

 

The acting was good overall, but it was an uphill battle to make the characters believable, interesting, and sympathetic in any way. Well, I guess they were not supposed to be characters to root for, except maybe Dottie (played by Juno Temple).

 

I'm just going to touch on some points and characters now and assume that, if you're reading this, you've seen the film:

 

1. To me, the "loose" ending was clear. Dottie shoots Joe (a startlingly good Matthew McConaughey) at the end. They show a shot of Dottie moving her finger to the trigger and... cut to black screen. I just wish they had included the sound of a gunshot.

 

2. I said this film was pointless, but maybe the concept is supposed to be the destruction of an American family...? Someone at IMDB posted the interesting idea that Joe is just a catalyst that drives the family to tear itself apart, because the seeds of the destruction were already there from the start (Sorry, I'm mixing metaphors, etc...). Actually, really, IMO, the almost unseen Rex is the catalyst of all to follow...

 

3. Now, here's my main problem with the film: The duplicitous Sharla's (Gina Gershon) betrayal(s) never fully play out or are totally explained. I don't know if the viewers are supposed to understand or guess what Sharla knows and has done with Rex or if the script-writing is not developed enough.

 

What I mean is, near the end of the film, in a very tense, pre-violence scene, Joe has a looong convo with Sharla in front of Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) at the family dinner table. Joe's basically squeezing it out of Sharla that she is in cahoots with her lover, Rex, who is also the husband of Ansel's ex-wife. Joe keeps asking why Sharla says the insurance pay-out is $100K instead of $50K that the family thinks it is.

 

So, Sharla knows, from Rex, that the insurance on the "accidental death" of Ansel's ex-wife will be $100K. That's as far as Joe goes in questioning Sharla.

 

I would have taken this further: Like, Sharla must have then known that Rex was the beneficiary and not Dottie. Like, Sharla would know she would be splitting $100K only with Rex.

 

So why was she still hanging out with Ansel and the family during the time Rex was getting the pay-out? Wouldn't she realize that the family, and Joe, would be mad as hornets that they weren't getting paid as a beneficiary and for the job respectively? She should have been way far away from them, with Rex, collecting the insurance check and cashing it and skipping town!

 

I had to think about all that afterwards to try to understand what Joe was getting at with Sharla. I mean, I understood she was betraying Ansel, but what she knew was not fully explored.

 

4. Moving on to characters and actors, I felt Thomas Haden Church's dumb as dirt schtick was funny at first, but it gets tiresome fast. At the end of the film, a crazed Joe asks subservient Ansel "What do you think?" and Ansel says "I don't think". All that is hammered to death in the film.

 

Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a perpetual screw-up and the one who pushes for the hit on his mother, yet there's still something sweet, and sweetly icky, about his feelings for his sister, Dottie. Sadly, he gets face-pummeled in Nowhere-fashion by Joe AND shot (but in the upper shoulder?!) by Dottie. I didn't understand why Dottie shot Chris, except that she was blinded by anger from all the violent commotion and shot at whoever was standing in front of her... I mean, is there really a reason for Dottie to hate Chris? She talked about him dreamily when she told Joe that when her mom and dad divorced and she was crying, Chris laid on top of her until she stopped crying... Unexplored, perverse territory here...

 

Dottie is a confusing character. Is she the "innocent" fairy princess we're supposed to be rooting for. Kinda difficult with her screwy moral compass where she has no compunction in agreeing that her mom needs to be murdered. She's also psychologically stunted, so it's hard to know where her reasoning is coming from. I'm also not sure about her "relationship" with Joe. They never film it like she hates him or is afraid of him (until the end when he yells at her to sit down). What are her feelings, really? Did she want to run away with Chris to Peru? Did she want to marry Joe? Based on what happens at the end, I'd say she wants everyone to stop "suffocating" her and she kills them all...

 

5. Oh, which lead me to a gun question! How many bullets are in Chris's gun that Dottie fires? Are there 6 bullets? Are there more in the clip that you see Chris slam into the gun itself when he buys it?

 

I'm asking this, because at the end, Dottie fires off 5 shots, as far as I can tell. So if there's 1 more bullet, I'm assuming that one's for Joe.

 

6. Lastly, back to characters and actors, Matthew McC does a fine job in his snaky, sneaky, way-too-polite-until-he's-not role, but the character is too unknowable. Joe is too much of an enigma to be more than a scary surface. I mean, what are his motives? I guess he wants Dottie. Why does he goes all KFC-crazy on Sharla when Dottie's in the bedroom looking out of the cracked-open door? (And, as an aside, why would Dottie want to stand by Joe after that misygonistic and violent scene?) Why didn't Joe somehow get Rex to cash the insurance check, then kill Rex and take the money? The money doesn't seem to be the issue, even though Joe is the one who says he'll kill the whole family since he's not getting paid. Uh, too confusing!

 

I'd love to know your thoughts on this film if anyone's seen it and can stand talking about it! LOL

 

Jen

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I am the same, I still don't know what to think about it. I wanted to not like it at all, but there is something that keeps creeping in that makes me like it in an odd way. Matthew slides right into Killer Joe's skin. He deffinatly owns that film. Slimey as all hell, but you get that wink and a smile and he's got you.

 

I think part of Joe's sticking around is in part due to him wanting to make the family pay, part of screwing him over and in part because I think he has this warped sence of how Dottie should be living. He sees her being treated as a door mat, and he see her innosence and he want to pull her out of it. Only, his version of white fences is twisted. I don't think Joe sees that he is just as controlling and manipulative. Of the two, I would say her family is worse that Joe, but that's comparing shades of black.

 

It's deffinatly a strange film. One I can't seem to shake from my mind.

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Thanks for your reply, JWeber!

 

Yeah, it's weird how this film gets under your skin, in your mind... I'm now interested in reading the original play by Tracy Letts to see what that's like and how or if the film changed anything from the play.

 

I love how Matthew McC did not look or act like Matthew McC. I love how Dottie tells Joe "Your eyes hurt." because he does squint them painfully at times, which makes the viewer think that maybe Joe is conflict or there's some good in him or something - but he probably just got some dirt in his eye! :lol:

 

Oh, and just offhand, there's another link between Killer Joe and Hick; references to Texas and Oklahoma...

 

Jen

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  • 7 years later...

Loved the movie, from beginning to end.

1.  Like cops (even corrupt ones) often do, Joe knew everything before he even confronted Sharla.  He would have gotten every bit of information he needed from Rex, before he killed Rex.  So why not just confront her immediately, rather than the drawn out dance?  Because he wanted Ansel to reach the realization himself (and thus to own it) rather than just being told (which could lead to denial).  That's why the photos came out later, rather than earlier.  Ansel and Sharla had to be made divided enough for Joe to be completely dominant, and for Ansel to be unwilling to assist Sharla.  After all, Joe doesn't want his new-to-be wife to think of him as the man who killed the daddy that she plainly loves.  That's why it has to be a family decision to deal with Chris, one way or the other (and of course it would have to be the other).  And he had to completely break Sharla--showing her that he knew it all and that she couldn't look to Ansel to act against him.  And the fried chicken performance was the most complete way under the circumstances; unquestionably degrading and punitive, but at the same time symbolic so as not to actually further make Ansel a cuckold. 

2.  Rex already had the check when Joe pulled him over--on the road.  So it looks like Rex was taking off and double-crossing Sharla by leaving town with the nice payout.  That would be reason enough for Sharla to still be there.  She wouldn't have had the ability to reach him (she doesn't have a cell phone, or else she wouldn't need to talk on the business phone at the pizza place).  She's been with Ansel at all relevant post-funeral times, apparently, so she would be biding her time until she could get in contact with Rex (not knowing he had no plans for them in the future).  Indeed, Joe makes a point of telling Sharla that Rex was heading out of town, and Sharla does not even pick upon the ramification that Rex wasn't quite as open to her manipulation as she thought; again, he was leaving town, rather than waiting around to split proceeds with her.

3. I don't see any singling out of women for exploitation.  Chris was beaten to a level of fetishistic violence, and Ansel is belittled constantly.  Everyone was exploiting everyone.  Just because females may be physically weaker than men, and mens' interest in exploiting women is very commonly sex-oriented, doesn't make it special.  Women who outsmart men to get their assets are exploiting the men to get what the women want, thus taking advantage of the men being mentally weaker, yet we don't try to make it special by calling it "exploitation of men."  Sharla is devious and manipulative, as much (or more) than any man in the film.  Certainly, it is assumed by all that Dottie will be fine with being a retainer.  And, while she certainly cries profusely at the realization that her father doesn't love her enough to not do that, she quite gets over that.  Dottie is a psychopath herself.  She encourages Sharla to cheat on Ansel.  She is perfectly happy with (even encouraging) the killing of her own mother, even joking about doing it with poison just before Joe takes his first bite of the food that Dottie herself prepared.  She asks perfectly sensible questions about whether Joe would be the investigator of his own act of murder.  And, of course, she executes her brother and father--awfully suggesting serious revenge for them both having treated her like chattel in the first place.  And, after all, Chris did break his express promise not to start any nonsense, and that broken promise started the final violence.  Don't mess with a psychopathic young woman's fantasy when she's got access to a gun and everyone present is cool with murdering.

4. What is the point of being upset about Ansel's lack of change?  No one changes in this movie.  Everyone is as vile and stupid or smart, from the beginning and to the end.  Ansel was just consistent.  If in fact you don't like that character's premise, you just don't like it.  But then you are really just saying you wish he had less screen time.

5. Dottie most definitely seems to want to be with Joe, her baby-daddy, and the only man who ever ... well, made her a woman.  Plus, he's been generally quite gentlemanly with her, in a rather marital way.  There is genuine happiness at the dinner table when she confirms to Chris that she and Joe will be going away as a couple.  Does she contemplate killing him at the end?  Sure, I mean, it's not as though she isn't in a killing mood given that she just shot both Chris and Ansel.  And she's clearly pissed at Joe that he did not find a way to avoid the violence (knife to Chris, 15 separate blows by fist and can to Chris's face plus a bottle to the head) that spoiled her sense of a fairy tale in which he was her knight on a horse; idols aren't supposed to disappoint us by failing.  But she sure was taking a long time to pull that trigger if she was going to do it all, and she didn't pull the trigger slow when it came to Chris and Ansel.  And she made a point of noting she was pregnant, which would be unnecessary if she was done with Joe.  I think he could take the gun pointing as evidence to file away (with the poison joke, and generally being ok with matricide, etc.) that he should not take his future wife's views lightly.

6. If the gun had six bullets, it was empty when pointed at Joe.  One shot fired when Chris had it, after Joe tackled him.  Dottie fired three more, then shot both Chris and Ansel.

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