Although filmmaker William Friedkin turns 77 next month, his passion for directing has yet to wane. One may assume with several classics (The French Connection, The Exorcist, Sorcerer) and a collection of first rate features (To Live And Die In L.A., The Hunted and Bug) under his belt, Mr. Friedkin would be content to just rest on his laurels.
Killer Joe, a brutal, debased, yet surprisingly humorous narrative based on Tracy Letts’ stage play, is proof that Friedkin, ever so defiant, refuses to fade from view. It’s one of his finest hours committed to celluloid, as the director proves that he can cook on all cylinders if given a top notch script, fearless acting, and first rate cinematography work from Caleb Deschanel (he’s lensed The Natural and The Right Stuff).
An example of Mr. Friedkin’s dexterity is evidenced during the film’s final chapter, when the hitman/sheriff (Matthew McConaughey, excellent as Killer Joe Cooper), who’s hired to kill the mother of a dimwitted drug dealer (Emile Hirsch), confronts the dealer’s conniving stepmother Sharla (Gina Gershon). The most pivotal scene in the picture was set in a trailer, and Friedkin, Deschanel, as well as the actors had to make that enclosed space look and feel dynamic.
Sharla, played by Gershon with a feral intensity, believes she has the upper hand on everyone, but in just one instant Killer Joe, armed with a chicken drumstick, violently changes her perceptions.
It was a fascinating piece of pure cinema, and during the press junket I asked Gershon about that emotionally gripping sequence (co-star Juno Temple, who stars as Sharla’s stepdaughter Dottie, is also heard in the clip):
In the following scene, Killer Joe tells Dottie a rather gruesome story:
Killer Joe, rated NC-17, opens in select theaters July 27th (it also opens in Los Angeles August 3rd).
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posted by Greg Srisavasdi (Twitter: @gsrisavasdi )