Metascore
62

Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 38
  2. Negative: 4 out of 38
  1. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 23, 2012
    80
    This is a movie that's just out there, beyond our normal experience in a theater. You may walk away impressed or offended by Killer Joe, but Friedkin and McConaughey make sure you won't walk away indifferent.
  2. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Aug 1, 2012
    78
    It's ostensibly a Southern-fried comedy of terrors, but what little humor the film evinces almost immediately lodges in your windpipe like an errant bit of K-Fried-C gristle.
  3. 40
    Killer Joe isn't as outlandish in premise as it is in execution, which is saying something.
  4. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Aug 1, 2012
    75
    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.
  5. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Jul 18, 2012
    60
    Family dysfunction to make Jeremy Kyle blush, but thanks to McConaughey's oily power and Friedkin's unflinching purpose it's a compelling beast.
  6. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Jul 25, 2012
    50
    Killer Joe throws down a dare by expecting its audience to be the cool connoisseurs of the story's "comic" outrageousness, then rubbing viewers' faces in close-up scenes of brutality that reasonable people ought not to be able to watch. That up-close experience, however effectively done, is a movie specialty that's its own kind of mean.
  7. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Jul 26, 2012
    83
    With an eye for gritty, shameless fun, Friedkin unleashes the play's guilty pleasure center. Friedkin holds nothing back, but it's Letts' rambunctious plotting that enables the director to chart a path to the wild climax.
  8. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Aug 2, 2012
    80
    By far the film's deadliest weapon is McConaughey. The way the actor leans into threats, dropping his voice, wrapping eloquence in sinister tones, is skin-crawling. The muscles in his neck literally seem to tense one by one. And if the eyes are the window to the soul, you really don't want to peer for long into his. It is not an easy performance to watch, but it is unforgettable.
  9. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Aug 24, 2012
    50
    You end up feeling sorry for all the actors forced to humiliate themselves, except for McConaughey, whose portrayal of sadistic, manipulative evil is mesmerizing, in part because it was so unexpected. He continues to surprise. Friedkin, sadly, continues to coast.
  10. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    Jul 26, 2012
    65
    In its own way and to its own detriment, William Friedkin's splattery, southern gothic return to the screen seeks to amuse as well as shake and stir.
  11. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Aug 24, 2012
    80
    An unflinchingly ugly -- but downright mesmerizing -- tale that plumbs the depths of human immorality and, along the way, offers a dash of subtle commentary on just how far we, as a 312 million-member nuclear family, might have lost our way.
  12. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Jul 26, 2012
    20
    What's most notable about this aggressively cynical project is how much talent it wastes.
  13. 80
    As splashy as Killer Joe is, it's also, beat by beat, meticulously orchestrated, with no shortcuts to the carnage. When it comes to mapping psychoses, Letts and Friedkin are diabolically single-minded cartographers.
  14. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Jul 24, 2012
    50
    When this sick, ludicrous cocktail of sex, violence and mayhem was first unveiled a year ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, one wag aptly described it as "the ghost of Tennessee Williams meets the spirit of Quentin Tarantino."
  15. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Jul 27, 2012
    12
    A sleazy and pointless film about sleazy and pointless people, Killer Joe reminds us that what Quentin Tarantino does isn't easy.
  16. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Aug 9, 2012
    75
    Killer Joe is twisted pulp, and the actors chew on it bravely, boldly, and with varying degrees of success.
  17. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Aug 9, 2012
    75
    A gleeful and unapologetic descent into delicious decadence, Killer Joe is proud of what it is and never tries to be something it isn't.
  18. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Jul 26, 2012
    75
    Even when the film goes too far over the top to be saved, McConaughey mesmerizes.
  19. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jul 26, 2012
    80
    Friedkin's still got it - the "it" being his ability to infuse every frame of the film with powerful ambiguity and doubt, and also his ability to attract terrific actors and propel them in unexpected directions.
  20. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Aug 2, 2012
    75
    The hardest thing to describe is tone, but it's the thing that most sets Killer Joe apart and makes it one of the most interesting and satisfying movies of the year so far.
  21. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzalez
    Jul 22, 2012
    75
    It thrills in seeing dumb people getting their due in hyper-stylized displays of violence, and yet it never feels contemptuous of them.
  22. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Jul 28, 2012
    40
    The pleasure of watching McConaughey strut, preen, and menace his way through this Southern-fried black comedy (at least I think it's a comedy) isn't quite enough to save Killer Joe. The whole movie has something tonally off about it, not to mention a theatricality that works against it in a way Bug's didn't.
  23. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Aug 24, 2012
    63
    Killer Joe is one of the most repugnant parodies of small-town stupidity that you will ever see, and Friedkin amplifies the shrill obscenities with blaring cartoon and kung-fu footage from his art director's fever dreams.
  24. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Jul 25, 2012
    83
    This is not some nostalgia-soaked throwback to the noir of old, but a rude, shit-kicking thriller that co-opts - and merrily defiles - a classic like "Double Indemnity." Whatever its shortcomings, at least they're never failures of nerve.
  25. Reviewed by: Adam Nayman
    Aug 10, 2012
    100
    Credit goes to the actors (especially Gershon) for giving almost as good as they get in seriously demanding roles, and to Friedkin for having what it takes – guts, chops and a refreshing lack of artistic caution – to bring things thundering home.
  26. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Jul 18, 2012
    60
    It is up to McConaughey's crooked cop to carry the picture: a sleek, loungingly casual loner whose hunger for violence, like his hunger for fried chicken, is finally and horribly gratified.
  27. Reviewed by: Neil Young
    Jul 18, 2012
    80
    A likeably unpleasant slice of adults-only Texas noir, which aims at the funnybone as much as the jugular.
  28. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Jul 26, 2012
    50
    Mr. Friedkin, a director with a talent for kinetic screen violence, never finds his groove with Killer Joe, which lurches from realism to corn-pone absurdism and exploitation-cinema surrealism.
  29. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Jul 30, 2012
    50
    Even if you like your movies sick and black, as many people do, it's hard to miss the irony: in the very act of trying to intensify his Southern tale, Friedkin dilutes the impact.
  30. Reviewed by: Oliver Lyttelton
    Jul 23, 2012
    83
    It won't change the face of cinema history, and it won't win any awards (it's too downright dirty for that), but it's furiously entertaining, and a very strong piece of drama from a director who hasn't much luck in the last thirty-odd years.
  31. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Jul 18, 2012
    80
    McConaughey's fans might be shocked to see him in this role - more likely, they'd skip the opportunity - but they ought to give his performance a shot. The dimpled demon lover proves he can be just as seductive playing Texas's creepiest, craziest cop.
  32. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Jul 24, 2012
    100
    It's McConaughey who is the real revelation: All Grim Reaper strut and cutthroat stare, he savors each of Letts's vividly ghoulish lines.
  33. Reviewed by: Matt Mueller
    Jul 18, 2012
    80
    Friedkin's unflinching trailer-park noir features ugly characters, game performances, degradation and the obscene abuse of a chicken drumstick. Highly recommended, then.
  34. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Aug 2, 2012
    50
    The bone-crunchingly violent film has luridly entertaining moments. But by its resolution, this sleazy Southern Gothic nightmare has simply gone off the rails.
  35. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Jul 18, 2012
    70
    The family that slays together pays together in Killer Joe, a nasty little Texas noir that transfers Tracy Letts' 1993 play from page to screen with generally gripping results before devolving into an over-the-top splatterfest.
  36. Reviewed by: Nick Pinkerton
    Jul 24, 2012
    90
    A hideously funny tabloid noir.
  37. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Jul 26, 2012
    0
    Killer Joe is, at bottom - and I mean bottom - ugly and vile, not to mention dumb and clumsy.
  38. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Aug 2, 2012
    38
    The action and dialogue find the same squalid level in time for the climactic scene, the cruel humiliation of a central character. That's when sensitive viewers should do what the bloody-minded Joe could never imagine: Walk away from the mess he has made.
User Score
6.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 101 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 26
  2. Negative: 3 out of 26
  1. Nov 16, 2012
    9
    This is real film noir--not the private eye low key lighting kind but a real dip in the nasty stew of human greed and concupiscence. Hence, not for everyone. The actors are wonderful at revealing how naivete can turn amoral and good manners mask perversity and violence--and all regarded as part of the human comedy.. The cast is pitch perfect. A special cheer for McConaughey and for Gina Gershon and Emile Hirsch. Full Review »
  2. Jun 20, 2013
    5
    One messed up movie I give you that. The plot is rather shallow and the cast isn't that good. Only thing that really saves the film is McConaughey's strong performance. Still worth giving a chance though. Full Review »
  3. BKM
    Feb 25, 2013
    7
    Perhaps the greatest quality of Killer Joe is that it never pretends to be anything more than a wickedly deranged and entertaining piece of trash. Freed from the obligation to make any sort of artistic statement, Friedkin delivers the goods and coaxes stellar performances from his cast; particularly McConaughey and Church. It's definitely not for everyone, but it never tries to be. Full Review »