The creepiest role McConaughey has played to date (and that includes the spiritually-motivated serial killer he played in Frailty) is the title role in this adaptation of Tracy Letts’ black-comic stage play. In fact, recalls director William Friedkin, when the actor first read the script, he threw it across the room in disgust.
Still, leave it to McConaughey to find some empathy, and even some seductive charm, in Killer Joe Cooper, a Dallas cop who moonlights as a hitman. A family of trailer-park grotesques hires him to knock off their matriarch for the insurance money, essentially giving him virginal kid sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as collateral. But while Dottie is naïve, she’s not exactly innocent; in fact, she has a taste for violence that rival’s Joe’s, and Joe starts to find that as appealing as her nubile body.
Joe and Dottie’s twisted romance is punctuated by repeated instances of intra-family betrayal and humiliation. You may find what Joe makes Dottie’s stepmom Sharla (Gina Gershon) do with a chicken drumstick even more disturbing than the film’s bloody, Jacobean climax. Either way, McConaughey finds a way to make Joe’s perversity into a vulnerability that, in turn, makes him human.