American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
William Friedkin's "Killer Joe" is one hell of a movie. It left me speechless. I can't say I loved it. I can't say I hated it. It is expertly directed, flawlessly cast and written with merciless black humor by Tracy Letts. It's about the Smiths, the stupidest family I've ever seen in a movie that's not a comedy.
The Smiths live in a trailer that is apparently somewhere near Dallas, although we never see a street or a skyline suggesting the city. Our clue is the Dallas police car used by Killer Joe. Whoever painted it must have known where he was. Killer Joe is not stupid, but he makes the mistake of never realizing just how dumb the Smiths are. He's played by Matthew McConaughey, soon after "Magic Mike," and both films take advantage of his reptilian charm and his snaky, hunky, me-first aura. This is one of his best performances.
Killer Joe is known as a cop who sometimes hires out as a contract killer. His services are mentioned to Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), a witless young man who desperately needs to find money to pay drug dealers before they kill him. He suggests to his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), that they hire Joe to kill Chris' mother (Ansel's first wife) so they can collect on her life insurance policy. We never meet the intended victim, but she will obviously not be missed; when kid sister Dottie (Juno Temple), the youngest person in the film, overhears them, she says it sounds like a good idea. "What good is she doing anyone?" Chris asks, begging the question of what good he, Ansel and Dottie are doing anyone.
There is one more Smith, Sharla (Gina Gershon), who is Ansel's current wife, and Chris and Dottie's stepmother. Falling out of her dress, with her mascara often smudged, she could be the poster child for that underused word "slattern." She not only goes along with the scheme but may have more to do with it than anyone realizes.