Would have been better, had it been based on the Nintendo games.
Ward, a reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his younger brother, a college drop-out named Jack (Zac Efron) investigate the events surrounding a murder to exonerate a man on death row, named Hillary (John Cusack). However, the only reason they are doing so is because the gal that wants Hillary out, a sexxed-up, piece of work named Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), just so happens to be the apple of Jack’s eyes.
I’ve been hearing a lot of crazy shit about this film and to be honest: it’s all deserved. Everybody knows Lee Daniels because he pulled-off Precious about 4 years ago and it showed him as the type of director that can get a story, no matter how gritty or despicable, and be able to make it in the least-bit inspirational for people. However, it wasn’t his first rodeo, as that honor (and I guess, dishonor) goes to a little, fucked-up movie called Shadowboxer. If you’ve never heard of it, please, don’t go watch it because it’s just an insane piece of work to watch and it will have you question whether or not you’ve just watched two films, from the same director. And if you have heard or have actually seen it, then buckle up, because that exactly the same type of crazy shit you’re going to get here.
As much as Daniels’ debut may have blew huge gonads, this flick is actually more controlled than that one and that’s probably because it’s just wild, without making any excuses for being so. There’s definitely that type of grungy, exploitative look and feel to the movie that has you feel as if you are in the dirty South, around the 60′s when racial-issues were up to the forefront and everybody was just sweating their asses off. If anything Daniels does do right in this flick, it’s at least nail the look and feel of the period that he has it placed-in, but everything else, well, it is sort of all-over-the-place.
Being “all-over-the-place” isn’t really all that much of bad thing if you can do it, and get away with it. The problem isn’t that Daniels can’t do it, because he sure as hell makes sure that everybody knows he can in every, damn second of this movie, but it’s more that he can’t get away with it. He can show two people making each other cum without ever touching one another and just simulating dirty things to one another, but it sticks out like a sore-thumb to everything else, and he can’t get away with it; he can show a girl peeing on a guy because he got stung by a bunch of jelly-fish, but it’s just odd and seems like it was only done for shock-factor, and he also can’t get away with it; and lastly, he can try and bring some issues up about the whole Civil Rights-movement, but when you compare it to the last sequences I just mentioned, it seems uneven, and once again, he can’t get away with it. Directors like Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodóvar (who apparently wanted to take this material at one time), or even Robert Rodriguez for that matter, could take this material, do whatever the hell they wanted to with it, and at least make all of the crazy shit and melodramatic stuff gel well enough together, that you almost don’t notice it, but Daniels isn’t one of those directors. He’s just a regular-director that seems like he’s trying his damn near hardest to have us all forget about the over-weight girl story he pulled-off 4 years ago, and try to distract us with insane amounts of sex, whether it actually happen on-screen or just be insinuated. Either way, there’s a bunch of sex that seems to come out nowhere at times.
Is all of this wackiness and cookiness fun? In a way, yes it is and honestly, as much as I may be ragging on the film right here, I am more or less just hating on Daniels. Not to say that the guy doesn’t know how to make a story move, because he definitely does, but it focuses way too much on the personal lives of these characters and not in an exciting or electric way either, it’s just a boring, way-too-dramatic way that comes off as trying too hard. We never really care for these characters, the case they continue to push to the side, or what their relationships are with each other and how that affects one another, and I guess that was the point. Daniels is just giving us a bunch of dirty people that we can either care to like or not. Whether or not we actually do, doesn’t matter, because as long as Daniels is just allowing us to see how insane he can be, then he’s the one with the real joy in the end. That kind of ticks me off now that I think about it, because there was definitely a crap-ton of promise with this flick and premise, it’s just a shame that it had to fall so far from ever achieving that said promise.
The only promise that this flick ever does hit head-on, is the ensemble cast and what they are able to do with each of their roles, no matter how wacky or unbelievable they may be. Zac Efron is the sort-of voice of reason throughout this whole flick and is definitely growing-up right in front of our own eyes, but if you think about it, it is sort of a dull role for the guy but nowhere near as dull as the role Robert Pattinson had in Cosmopolis. Still, Efron makes this character work and his performance shows-off a kid that definitely wants to be treated like an adult, yet, still has the tendencies of a kid that just doesn’t yet know what to do with his life or who to spend the rest of it with. Sort of how Efron is now, just without being peed-on. Then again, I still have no idea what him and Vanessa Hudgens did in their spare-time.
Playing his big bro, Matthew McConaughey is good as the slick and sly reporter that can not only charm his way into getting whatever the hell he wants, but also has a bit of problems brewing underneath that he’s pretty good at hiding. This is a nice role for McConaughey and it’s one that he can practically play while sleeping, but after a year where tore the roof down as force to be reckoned with in flicks like Killer Joe and Magic Mike, this one definitely ranks the lowest-of-the-low for him. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s not to say that it’s anything special, either. John Cusack is playing really, really against-type here as the psychotic and nutty Hillary, and shows that Cusack can probably do more than any of us ever expected from him. He’s strange, he’s weird, but he’s also very sinister and I like how Cusack totally just swan-dived right into the role, totally leaving all shades and memories behind of Peter Gabriel tapes in his pathway. Not to say that this is a special performance that makes us think of Cusack in a different way now, but it’s definitely a role that shows the guy can do more than just be that old dude from the 80′s we all remember relating to when our dates walked-out on us at prom. Yeah, that he is no more.
The one who really steals the spotlight from the rest of these dudes is Nicole Kidman, as the starlet fire fox, Charlotte. Kidman hasn’t been this sexy or bad-ass since the days of Eyes Wide Shut and To Die For, but here, she totally steals all the glory and attention, and has all of the fun out of everybody here. She just relishes in the fact that she can be sexy, be a little dirty, but also be a little bit sympathetic as well and once things start to go South for her and this story, she’s the only one you really give a single hoot about, especially since she’s the only one that has the most believable convictions out of the whole story (she just wants love). Kidman is probably getting the most recognition and praise for her work here and rightfully so, because the gal just looks freakin’ hot and steams up every scene she’s in, whether she’s trying to seduce people and act sexy, or not. Either way, Kidman definitely had my attention in almost every scene and I’m glad so, too, because she deserved it.
Consensus: You may have a boat-load of fun with The Paperboy if you’re looking for some weird shit to happen, non-stop without any rhyme or reason as to why exactly, but if not, then you may just be bored and annoyed by how uneven everything is, despite Daniels trying his hardest to make us think or see otherwise. You strike-out this time, my friend!
Never in my life have I wanted KFC more.
The story centers on a brother (Emile Hirsch) and sister (Juno Temple) combo who plot the death of their mother for the insurance money and hire “Killer Joe” Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) , a cop and contract killer to do the deed.
After hearing about all of the crazy controversy about this movie and it’s NC-17 rating, I knew I had to just check it out and see what all of the damn fuss is about. Yeah, it sounds strange that I would only want to go and see a flick based on it’s rating but come on, doesn’t it feel cool just going into an NC-17 movie, knowing that there’s going to be some dirty stuff that only you’re allowed to see. Actually when I word it like that, it sounds creepy. Never mind then.
76-year old legendary director William Friedkin shows that he still has the style and look to pull off any story, even the insanely-violent ones. Apparently this film was adapted from a stage-play (which is weird because I don’t necessarily think there is any audience out there that’s willing to see this type of material on stage) but Friedkin seems like he can do a lot more with it, than just making it a bunch of talking heads scenes. And even when there is talking heads scenes, they are suspenseful and very entertaining, with a whole bunch of dark comedy that will surely make you laugh, even at times that you don’t think you should.
The balance of dark humor and trashy violence is one of the key elements to Friedkin’s flick and he shows that he can make us laugh one second, but look away the next at how gruesome some of this material can get. The violence in this flick doesn’t happen all of the time, but when it does, it looks disgusting, ruthless, and so brutal to the point of where you can almost feel it. I won’t lie to you, I looked away from time-to-time, but not long enough to miss what Friedkin was showing us up on the screen: some straight-up, trailer-trash beatings. Great to see that Friedkin still has the touch that people have always seen him have back in his old days and it sort of gives hope to a lot of those older directors out there now who seem to be slowing down and getting softer in their old age. But not this guy, no sirree.
But as good as Friedkin may be behind-the-camera, the story somehow falters because everybody here, is just about as unlikable and distasteful as the next. Usually, when you have these types of stories where everybody is a baddie and you don’t know who to fall back on, there’s at least one character who at least seems likable more than them all, which there is here with Killer Joe himself, but whenever he isn’t around, you don’t really care much about anything or anybody else. These characters just go from doing one bad thing to another and it only gets worse and worse as the story goes on, which ultimately means that we start to care less and less for them and when their lives are in danger, we don’t really seem to care. I guess that’s the whole point of this film, but it didn’t do much for me.
Another problem that I seemed to have with this flick is that no matter how good it was with it’s intense dialogue and performances, it still felt a lot like a stage-play. A lot of the action that happens here, just takes place in a trailer-park home where it centered around two people just talking about God knows what. These conversations that these people have work well and distract us a bit from what seems overly-stagey, but when it comes right down to it, it still feels like a stage-play adapted to the big-screen with barely any changes here except for the actors and actresses.
However, where the story falters, the performances take over and keep your eyes on-screen the whole time. Emile Hirsch turns in another great lead performance here as Chris. Hirsch is one of those young, underrated actors that I think deserves more credit for taking challenging roles like these, rather than going down the teen idol path he could have easily gone for back when he did Speed Racer. Yeah, the movie sucked but girls were swooning all-over-the-place. His character bothered me, though, because it almost felt like this guy was getting too corrupt and dumb for his own good, and where it almost seemed like a cliché. Thankfully, the other characters distracted me enough from this problem but I still noticed it, none the less.
He is joined by Juno Temple, who plays his sister, Dottie, in one of those sweet, little innocent girl roles that doesn’t feel manipulative and we actually care for her character the most out of everybody else. She’s definitely the easiest character out of the bunch to feel some sympathy for and she feels more human than everybody else, if a tad contrived with all of her good-girl aspirations. Playing their parents are Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon, and both show that they have that off-kilter type of humor down-pat, but Gershon definitely feels like she’s stretching her acting talents a bit too far for her own good. However, her first appearance in this movie will probably have most people forgetting about her “acting talents” in the first place.
Still, as good as everybody is here, they don’t stand a chance against Matthew McConaughey‘s incredible performance as Killer Joe, a role that he seemed born to play. It seems like ever since The Lincoln Lawyer came out last year, McConaughey has been doing more and more roles that show the type of talents he has as an actor, rather than a guy who goes around, chasing babes like Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson, amongst others. There are amazingly hot and sexy ladies, but it doesn’t help his career out and I think he was starting to realize that, and that’s why he’s totally changing it all up this year. He was great as Dallas in Magic Mike, showing that he could steal just about every single damn scene he was in there, and he does the same thing here with this film but it’s a way different character from Dallas. Joe is a stone-cold killer that just looks like one of those menacing, mysterious dudes you do not ever want to mess with, ever.
However, this guy isn’t just a scary-ass dude the whole way through, McConaughey still brings out a lot of his charm and good looks to make this character seem like your everyday, good old Southern boy that you could see strolling through the streets with his cowboy hat and horse. But as time goes on, we start to see something more twisted and sinister inside of his mind in what could be some of the most tense last 20 minutes to any other film I have seen this whole year. Basically, McConaughey has totally re-invented himself by taking all of these different and darker roles which show the type of skill he has as an actor and it’s something I can’t wait to see more of. Let’s just hope he stays away from those damn rom-coms.
Consensus: Though the story may falter, Killer Joe still features a top-notch cast (especially a stand-out McConaughey), a tense and wild direction from Friedkin, and a great balance of dark humor and shocking violence/sex.