Review: Killer Joe (Blu-ray)

Lionsgate's brings Willam Friedkin and Tracy Lett's trashy crime noir Killer Joe to Blu-ray!

  • Director: William Friedkin
  • Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 103 Minutes
  • Company: Lionsgate
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Discs: 1 - 50GB
  • Video: 1.85:1 - 1080p - AVC
  • Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Region: All
  • Released: 12/21/2012

First and foremost, Matthew McConaughey is absolutely on fire this year. Out of the twenty films that will soon grace my "Best Of 2012" list, McConaughey stars in four of them. His performances this year are stratosphere level good. He's basically reinvented himself as a major player, ditching the routine, romcom leading facade, and headed into more serious fare. His roles this year are career defining and seminal, on the same level as his now iconic breakout role as Wooderson in Dazed and Confused. Killer Joe is no exception, and shows McConaughey go to depths of nuance and depravity like I've never seen before.
Killer Joe centers around the Smiths, a shit-kicking, trailer park living family that's in a bit of a quarrel. Chris (Emile Hirsch), is in deep with the sharks, and his days of eluding them are coming to an end. Either he pays up, or it's six feet under forever. Chris drags his nimrod father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and hussy step-mother Sharla (Gina Gershon) into the ordeal, but with a bit of incentive. Kill his Mother, inherit her $50,000 life insurance policy, and split it evenly. Enter "Killer Joe" Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a slick and discrete detective, who has a little hired gun business on the side. When Chris and Ansel fail to offer up $25,000 advance, Joe takes an obsessive interest in Chris's simple-yet beautiful sister Dottie (Juno Temple), leading to one of the nastiest finales in recent memory.
Adapted from the Tracy Letts' early 90's play of the same name, Killer Joe is brought to the screen thanks to cinema legend William Friedkin (The Exorcist, Sorcerer), and it's without a doubt one of the best films' of the year. Friedkin and Letts collaborated six years prior to Killer Joe with Bug, a highly underrated film (again based on Lett's play) that was one of the former's best work in years. From start to finish Killer Joe operates in another world, and the fantastic ensemble of actors that inhabit it truly make this must-see cinema. Lett's and Friedkin have created, adapted, and perfected what can only be described as trash noir. It's filthy, disgusting, and absolutely enthralling.

  • Video
Killer Joe comes to Blu-ray from Lionsgate, in it's original 1.85:1 framed aspect ratio, with a lush looking 1080p transfer. Shot digitally on the Arriflex under the direction of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, Killer Joe's color palette is bright and warmly lit, and that is faithfully represented here. Detail is incredible throughout, so much that the thinnest weaves of spider web appear and you can see it bright as day. Black levels are deep, dark, and consistent. Digital cinematography will never replace film, but cinematographers are continuing to prove that the craft can be expertly honed, and be a faithful alternative to it's celluloid brother. Overall, Killer Joe looks damn fine on Blu-ray.
  • Audio
Being that Killer Joe is a dialogue driven, there are a few moments throughout that definitely test the accompanying DTS-HD 5.1 mix. A motorcycle chase, a car explosion, and a sever beating make great use of the surround channels. Dialogue is always clear throughout, and has a nice amount of underlying bass to it that drives it further. The subtle score provided by Tyler Bates is a great touch, with specific music ques creeping out through the speakers with balance and weight.

Bonus Features
  • Audio Commentary - Director William Friedkin
Friedkin is an absolute joy to listen to throughout the track, and is a non-stop ramblin' man in terms of production stories and his directorial process. Topics range from the films NC-17 rating (a funny anecdote is told about the films gratuitous showing of pubic hair, from the insistence of playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts who exclaimed, "don't be afraid of the pussy!"), to his hatred of multiple takes, to his praising of the films' cinematography. Friedkin also constantly references a "movie god", a holier than thou celluloid-bestowing being that either giveth or taketh away. Basically, it's a highly recommended listen, which should go without saying. It's William Friedkin!
  • Featurette - "Southern Fried Hospitality: From Stage to Screen"
All the major players in front and behind the camera talk about the inception of Killer Joe, their introduction to Tracy Letts' play, and eventually reading the script for the feature. McConaughey initially hated it, and outright dismissed it's graphic nature, but came to his senses once everyone told him it's supposed to be a disturbing black comedy.
  • SXSW Q&A With Cast
A 40 minute Q&A at the films' Paramount premiere in Austin, Texas, where McConaughey, Gershon, Hirsch, Letts, and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel field questions from moderator Harry Knowles and the audience. Friedkin literally phones in and contributes to the discussion, but the Q&A isn't as engaging or insightful as I was hoping. The main thing to take away from this: Friedkin is planning to release a remastered print of Sorcerer in the near future!
  • SXSW Intro With William Friedkin
The man himself sends a recorded video in to introduce the film before it's premiere.
  • Red Band Theatrical Trailer