McConaughey stars in intense violent film by notable director, playwright

Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin’s independent dark comedy “Killer Joe” based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, finally reached select Houston theaters this weekend after its premiere in late July.

Set in Dallas, the film centers on a cracked-up plan by trailer-park drug dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) to murder his mother for her colossal life insurance policy after landing himself in a rather large pile of dept.

Hirsch who is known for his roles in “The Girl Next Door” and “Into the Wild” has only been acting since ’96, but he continues on the swift path to stardom with four films currently in various stages of production.

Hirsch embodies the loud-mouthed, rash Chris who tends to get into things way over his head. Unable to complete the dirty deed himself, he and his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) employ the help of renegade detective Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and put a contract out on Chris’ mother.

McConaughey, who was born and raised in the Lone Star state, easily fits the part of the Dallas cowboy officer and impresses with an outstanding performance of the overly kind and slightly creepy transient.

McConaughey successfully portrays the dark and mysterious stranger who intrudes on the lives of the Smith family — particularly with Chris who owes him money, and Chris’ virginal sister Dottie (Juno Temple), the “retainer” for Chris’ debt.

As the key instrument in the murder, Cooper’s authoritative and pushy presence further disrupts the Smith’s already uneasy equilibrium, creating controversy and a dog-eat-dog atmosphere in the small mobile home.

However, Dottie is the portrait of perfect innocence amid all of the chaos and dysfunction. Ignorant of the surmounting unhappiness around her, she exists in her own blissful oblivion and take note in nothing that displeases her for longer than an instant.

Although quite knowledgeable of Cooper’s deal with her family, she finds comfort in the easy confidence of the triggerman and willingly submits to his wishes — except those that place her brother at risk.

Temple is a young actress also new to the film business, but since her first small appearance as Emma Southey in the 2000 hit “Pandaemonium” — a role given to her by her director father — she’s been in several blockbusters including “Year One” with Jack Black and Michael Cera, and expects nine more titles to be released within the next two years.

After more than an hour and a half of NC-17 rated entertainment filled with surplus amounts of nudity and violence, “Killer Joe” ends suddenly and without a proper conclusion.

Although the film is ultimately worth the trip to the theater, the audience is left with several unanswered questions and just might find themselves literally shouting at the screen, “What just happened?”

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