Sunday, 22 July 2012
'Electrick Children' and 'Killer Joe': review round-up
It's time (well way past time, if I'm honest) for another review round-up. Recently access to a computer and time to write have been rare, though I've now moved house (!) and I should have a new computer within the next week or so. In other words: this blog will soon be getting serious attention again.
I'm going to save my review of 'The Dark Knight Rises' for a full article, in order to explain why I really, really didn't enjoy it - a position I imagine I have to take time and thought to defend, judging by the otherwise unanimous praise it's attracted. The fact that disliking the film places me in company with Chris Tookey of the Mail is cause for concern, but I can't pretend I didn't find it to be joyless, bloated and narratively very messy indeed (though Anne Hathaway was amazing as Catwoman).
But in lieu of the time to do that proper write-up now, here are two short appraisals of some smaller films what I saw:
The second really enjoyable Matthew McConaughey movie in as many weeks - following his show-stealing performance in 'Magic Mike' - 'Killer Joe' is as entertaining as it is troubling and sadistic: a taut little thriller about an infighting trailer park family who stumble into serious trouble after haplessly hiring the titular freelance murderer. The performances are uniformly excellent, from Juno Temple's enigmatic turn as the disturbed young girl (is she tragically naive or entirely cruel?) to Emile Hirsch as her pathetic older brother and Thomas Haden Church as their impotent, browbeaten father. Yet McConaughey is obviously the stand-out performer, giving Joe a disarming Texan gentility that renders his remorseless and sexually violent killer even more creepy.
Director William Friedkin and screenwriter Tracy Letts - author of the original stageplay - deliver a memorable and disturbing little picture, which culminates in a masterful third act which plays out as one scene set around the family dinner table - one which won't help drive sales of KFC and may serve as a cold shower for any ladies still breathless from seeing the lead actor parading about as a male stripper the week previous. The whole thing plays as satirical, especially in its darkest moments, though it isn't entirely clear what the target is. That would ordinarily leave me struggling to justify the ultra-violence, but 'Killer Joe' is too well crafted and cast for that to present much of a problem.
This quirksome American indie sees a naive Mormon virgin (Julia Garner) flee her closed, rural community - lead by her preacher father bafflingly played by Billy Zane - after convincing herself that she has been made pregnant by rock and roll music after stumbling upon one of her mother's old cassette tapes. On the outside she meets, and forms an instant connection with, Rory Culkin's music scene hanger-on/skateboarder. Her older brother, Mr. Will (Bill Sage), is also along for the ride, having been cast out after being accused of fathering the child.
Is the girl really pregnant from music or is she carrying the son of God? Or is there some other, more rational, reason for the whole thing? I'm dammed if I know. Perhaps the lack of answers (or even interesting questions) wouldn't be so terrible if the 96 minutes spent in the company of these people didn't feel so terminally dull. It's a horrifically insincere poser of a movie, so concerned with seeming accidentally hip that it forgets to have a story, relatable characters or a sense of purpose.