FOR MOST PEOPLE, the term "guilty pleasure" means enjoying something that isn't very good—but I'd rather apply it to a film like William Friedkin's Killer Joe, a scuzzball delight fueled by an uncomfortable morality and an unapologetic sense of its own depravity. There's much in Killer Joe that you shouldn't giggle at, be thrilled by, or do anything but turn away from in revulsion. The fact that Friedkin's expert storytelling makes you reject your own instincts and stick with his desultory crime picture may weigh on your conscience a little, but it's worth the karma points.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Joe, a Dallas-based cop that commits pay-to-slay crimes on the side. Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a drug dealer who owes six grand because his own mother stole cocaine from him. He and his father (Thomas Haden Church) hire Joe to kill the woman so they can cash a life insurance policy payable to Chris' daydreaming younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple). In lieu of up-front payment, Joe takes Dottie as his "retainer." That the virginal sprite doesn't mind too much is just one of the many wrong things in a movie where everything goes wrong in every which way.
Killer Joe is loud, abrasive, and full of people you'll actively dislike. It's also edited with incredible panache, hustling the pulpy plot along. It's like a nastier cousin to John Dahl's Red Rock West or Sam Fuller's The Naked Kiss. Friedkin revels in the seedier details of Tracy Letts' script while smartly giving his actors plenty of room in which to work: McConaughey begins his performance fully reined in, but the more Friedkin lets him off his chain, the scarier this Southern gentleman becomes. Joe's undeniably evil, and you'll get a perverse charge from watching every terrible thing he does.