HOLLYWOOD - Matthew McConaughey stars as a killer-for-hire in Killer Joe, a violent and darkly comic new film by veteran director William Friedkin.
Chris has no job and is deep in debt to a loan shark. He is convinced that Killer Joe can solve his financial problems.
"Mom has got a $50 thousand life insurance policy. Killer Joe is a professional. He will do this right," Chris tells his dad, Ansel in the movie.
"This is murder we're talking about. I ain't agreed to nothing," Ansel responds.
"I heard y'all talking about killing mama. I think it's a good idea," chimes in Chris' younger sister, Dottie.
Dottie seems out of touch with reality. But together, she and Chris push their befuddled dad, Ansel, to go along with the plan and hire Killer Joe.
"Now, I only have a couple of rules that I insist on sticking to," Joe tells them. "If you are caught, if you are implicated in this crime, you are not under any circumstances to reveal my identity or participation. If you break this rule, you will be killed. Do you understand?"
Matthew McConaughey plays Joe and says that speech about the rules helped him understand this violent character.
"What is the incentive for Joe's violence? Lack of order. Lack of structure, which is what the guy needs everywhere," McConaughey explains.
British actress Juno Temple co-stars as Dottie, who hides her emotions behind a dreamy facade.
"She is living in this crazy environment with this family," explains Temple. "She loves them so much, but she also is so frustrated by them and it is causing her to be very angry. Ultimately when Killer Joe comes into her life, he is truly her weird idea of Prince Charming."
Smitten by this ethereal young woman, hard-boiled Joe breaks his own rules …and then proves that his warnings were not empty threats.
Director William Friedkin has used violence for dramatic effect in classic films like The Exorcist and The French Connection. He considers the Killer Joe scenario a common theme.
"There is violence throughout all society …family violence," notes Friedkin.
Its brutally graphic scenes earned the film the most restrictive rating from the Motion Picture Association of America: NC-17, which means nobody under 17 can be admitted. Tracy Letts, who adapted the film script from his own play, says it is not a story for kids.
"Plays don't actually have ratings, but we put it on our poster that people under 18 would not be admitted," Letts says. "We just wanted people to know that if you come in to see this, you're in for some adult fare."
The Killer Joe cast includes Thomas Haden Church as Ansel. Gina Gershon plays his scheming wife Sharla; and Emile Hirsch is Chris, whose money troubles set the plot in motion.