2011 Certificate: 18


Director William "The Exorcist" Friedkin makes an ultra-violent return to form with this jet black comedy. Needing cash to save his trailer trash neck, drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) plots to have his mother bumped off for the insurance money. His assassin of choice is Dallas detective "Killer" Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a snake-eyed gun-for-hire who develops a disturbing hankering for Chris's Lolita-like sister Dottie (Juno Temple). It's a bloody banquet of premier league pulp.


  • William Friedkin


  • Matthew McConaughey

  • Emile Hirsch

  • Juno Temple

  • Thomas Haden Church

  • Gina Gershon


In the three years since Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, rom-com regular Matthew McConaughey has kept his shirt on and bet it on a series of movies - The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie - that firmly distance him from his rep as a bit of buff fluff.

After this - as dead-eyed hitman "Killer" Joe Cooper - it's unlikely that any fawning girlie with an ounce of sense - or self-preservation - will be giving him the glad eye. He's not boyfriend material anymore.

Joe - a bad ol' boy who moonlights as a hired assassin from his day job as a Dallas cop - has landed the task of bumping off the estranged mom of dim-bulb Chris (Hirsch), a low-grade drugs dealer.

To give a hint how twisted things are in the Texan boondocks, Chris also has the backing of his simple-minded dad Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and his sister Dottie (Temple), a wise-beyond-her-years living doll.

However, Joe wants his $25,000 payment upfront, an impossible demand which is sleazily accommodated by Dottie being volunteered as a carnal "retainer" for Joe until the dirty deed is done and they can claim the $50,000 life insurance.

As Dottie and Joe get "acquainted" over a meat roast in the family's greasy trailer, things are hotting up outside with Chris pulverised by biker bruisers over an unpaid debt and Ansel slowly - and it cannot be stressed how slowly - realising that his wife Sharla (Gershon) has been playing away from home.

This lot are the moral opposite of The Brady Bunch - Chris dreams up killing his mom, pimps out his teenage sister and sells (bad) weed to his plank-thick pop. Then there's the wicked stepmom Sharla, a two-timing, beer-swigging slattern whose first introduction is literally full-frontal.

Based on the play by Tracy Letts (who also wrote Bug, Friedkin's previous outing), this is a moral-free feast of juicy pulp, fired by the splendidly laconic McConaughey's warped Southern gent.

It's an often difficult watch - Joe's oral humiliation of the duplicitous Sharla with a fried chicken drumstick is not for sensitive souls - but the powerful vein of black humour that runs through it never renders the violence gratuitous while the characters are a rich mix of venality, lust, revenge and low IQ.

Killer Joe slays you.