Thursday, January 31, 2013

All Superheroes Must Die

Like Steven C. Miller, (so-called) writer/director of some of the worst films I’ve ever seen (SilentNight, Automaton Transfusion), I don’t understand why people keep giving money to (so-called) writer/director/actor Jason Trost to make travesties he calls movies. His last flick, The FP, was about gangs who fought over turf by playing Dance Dance Revolution. Yes, you read that right... Dance Dance Revolution. I could only watch about 30 minutes of it before I had to turn it off for fear that my brain would liquefy. Apparently it was a hit (especially at SXSW Film Festival) and gained a cult following which led to Trost getting funding for his latest attempt at filmmaking, once known as Vs., but later being renamed All Superheroes Must Die.

Charge (Jason Trost), Cutthroat (Lucas Till), Shadow (Sophie Merkley) and The Wall (Lee Valmassy) are a group of superheroes who realize that their powers have been taken away by their arch-nemesis Rickshaw (James Remar). He wants them to see how it feels to lose and forces them to participate in a series of tasks where they will be on the receiving end of all the punishment they normally dish out.

I won’t mince words… this flick is a heaping pile of steaming horse shit.
Jason Trost has no clue how to write characters or stories that make a lick of sense, and he adds salt to his opened wounds by always playing the lead in his wretched projects. He is a horrible actor who is incapable of showing even a glimmer of personality. It’s as if Uwe Boll and Megan Fox had a love child who is talentless in every respect. His movies feel like overlong (even at 75 minutes) fan films filled with stupid ideas and horrible characters.

Here he has written his version of a comic book movie where all the protagonists are the most useless and unlikable group of superheroes ever committed to HD. I can’t imagine that even with their powers (Charge is super strong, Cutthroat is super fast, Shadow can become invisible and The Wall is invulnerable) they’d be much use to society. All they do is bicker, whine and show virtually zero empathy when they allow innocent people to die. At one point one of the heroes kills a number of civilians in cold blood just because he wants to live. How is an audience supposed to sympathize with a superhero that is also a self-centered murderer?! His dialogue is insipid, his plot is overly melodramatic and at times certain events resemble an After School Special (the flashback scenes in particular). There’s an awkward love triangle going on that is mentioned once, hinted at in a flashback and never brought up ever again. It actually would have explained a rivalry between two of the heroes but it is never fully explored. That’s the way this whole movie is structured: Idea introduced, idea dropped for no reason other than to let the director become the focus of the scene as his character. It’s frustrating, but this movie is bad in every respect so I shouldn’t have been expecting much. And what irks me the most is how he blatantly rips off Kick-Ass in that the characters have some of the filthiest mouths this side of a dive bar and that there’s buckets of blood and guts dumped everywhere. If he was trying for realism he failed miserably. No one talks like that… ever!
The acting is abysmal from everyone, including James Remar as the villain. He seems to be playing the Sham-Wow Guy more than a villain. He feels like he’s acting in a whole other movie entirely since he comes off as more of a joke than a threatening menace to society. All the leads are their own particular brand of horrible; Trost is unengaging, Till (who played Havok in X-Men: First Class) seems bored and impatient, Merkley acts like she’s in a high school play and is emotionless regardless of the fact that her character is supposed to be the emotional core of the group and Valmassy sleepwalks through his part as The Wall… literally. Only Sean Whalen seems to be enjoying his part as side-villain Manpower, but his costume is completely ridiculous and makes no sense. What does the name “Manpower” have to do with an Uncle Sam costume on stilts? Dumb.

The craptastic acting can only be attributed to Trost’s wretched script and inane direction. He can’t even direct himself capably! Every aspect is ass from the lame costumes to the cheap ass sets. For example: the entrance to a junkyard looks like the fence in front of someone’s home with a large sheet of plywood placed in front of it with “Al’s Junk Yard” spray painted across the front. The cinematography is dark and murky due to Trost choosing to film exteriors with only the street lights providing illumination. The interiors are decorated in bland and silly ways (curtains are obviously hiding objects that aren’t meant to be caught on film like paintings or furniture) and the basic lighting doesn’t help matters. Even the costumes are a joke unto themselves.
And the crown jewel to this dung sandwich is the insulting and ridiculous finale. There is a bomb that is going to explode and take out a good number of city blocks (the timer is a microwave) and our main hero is hurt and cannot muster the strength to escape. One of the other heroes comes to his rescue with three minutes left and they HAVE A SLOW AND DELIBERATE FUCKING CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY LOVE EACH OTHER!!! WTF?! And what’s worse is that when said injured hero takes down his nemesis he does it so easily, and with no superpowers mind you, that it makes me think that he and the others in his group are the most incompetent vigilantes around since they couldn’t even manage to do it with all their fancy abilities intact. Lame ass shit!

The only clever addition to this face raping was a bit of costuming. Trost has a bum eye and normally wears a patch over it, as in The FP. To cover it his costume was designed to look like someone tore open one side of his spandex face mask so that his good eye is showing and the bad one is still hidden. Nice, but that’s all I have to say that’s positive about this garbage.
Atrociously unlikable characters, a stupendously asinine plot and some of the worst writing I’ve seen since Battlefield: Earth, All Superheroes Must Die is one massively colossal waste of time and money on the part of everyone involved including the audience and is one of the worst films I have ever seen. The only thing that must die is Jason Trost’s career. I’d rather watch one of Asylum’s shitfests (Titanic II, Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train) than one of his godawful endeavors at filmmaking ever again.

0 out of 5

p.s. There is a post-credits scene that sets up a possible sequel which leaves me sad that the Mayans were wrong about the end of the world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Saying that the Universal Soldier franchise is odd is kind of an understatement.

The first film, which was a successful teaming up of 90s action stars Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, was a simple summer popcorn movie that was filled with crazy action and stunts.

Then there were two made-for-Showtime sequels, Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business. Van Damme’s character was taken over by the uncharismatic Matt Battaglia and the UniSols were found to be smuggling diamonds for a corrupt CIA agent and more ridiculous shenanigans. Long story short: they sucked ass.
The real sequel showed up a few years later. Universal Soldier: The Return brought Van Damme back to the part, but the story was a cheesy mess that took the franchise in the wrong direction. The series was for the most part dead at this point.

Flash forward 13 years and out of nowhere comes Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Van Damme and Lundgren are back (even though Lundgren’s character died in the original) and the movie surprisingly didn’t suck.

Now we have the fourth official movie in the series, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. The two major stars return again, but this time they are the villains. The lead role is played by martial artist Scott Adkins who gives the best performance of his short acting career so far.
John (Scott Adkins) is a family man whose wife and daughter are murdered in front of him by Luc Deveraux (Jean Claude Van Damme), who then beats him to a pulp with a crowbar. John wakes up in the hospital months later and is told he has been in a coma ever since the attack. Vowing to avenge the death of his family he begins to track down Deveraux and his crew of renegade Universal Soldiers.

I did enjoy this film a lot like the third before it. Director John Hyams (who helmed Regeneration as well) has taken the latter films in this series in a very different direction that I’m sure wasn’t the intention of the original writers. Where the first was an escapist summer film and the second was hokey crap, the third was a dead serious action thriller and the fourth is a dark and violent tale of revenge. Basically Hyams made this once defunct franchise viable again by taking some risks and pulling it off in a way that seems to work extremely well. Since they’ve made a fourth film I assume that people saw part three and it made a tidy profit. I certainly liked it and its brutal take on the material. The fourth follows suit, but goes off into yet another area the series isn’t known for. And by making the characters that were once heroes the antagonists you have to admit that it would certainly pique the curiosity of any fan of the series… like me.
Scott Adkins has never been known for his acting chops, but rather his insane martial arts skills. Dude’s kind of amazing in that regard. But here you can see that he’s really trying to step his thespian game up a notch or two and he managed to impress me a great deal. His role of John is complex; he cannot remember a portion of his life due to the beating he received, his family was killed and somehow he’s connected to a group of renegade super soldiers that are constantly trying to kill him. His character is mucho sympathetic and he definitely got that across to me, and when the time came for him to open a can of whoop-ass on some punk bitch I felt every blow he received because of that. I was rooting for him and I have never done that to any film Adkins has starred in. I think he’s going to finally be able to break into the big time pretty soon and take on the mantle of “Major Hollywood Action Star” pretty soon.

Van Damme and Lundgren are relegated to smaller roles as the villains, and their parts have gone through some serious modifications. Van Damme runs his renegades as if he were Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now (complete with shaved head and wacky Day of the Dead make-up) and Lundgren is his devoted second-in-command who loves to get his troops riled up via inspirational speeches about duty and honor. This new approach to the characters is never really explained in the story. All we get is that they were sick of being used as government slaves, but their ultimate goal is never divulged. My guess was that to keep the movies interesting they had to do a little change-up to the roster. It worked. Van Damme actually comes off as epically creepy. Lundgren’s character might have teamed up with his nemesis, but he is still the same old Scott we remember. He’s just older and more fun to watch.
There is virtually zero action for the first half of the film since the story is set up as a mystery. Like Resident Evil before it, John’s character is a blank slate standing in for the audience. As he learns what is going on around him we do as well. And does he ever find out some effed up shit about his life. I won’t ruin it for anyone interested in seeing this but there were some twists I definitely did not see coming.

When the action starts… OhMyFuckingGodDoesItKickSomeEverlovingAss! For instance, there is a fight scene between Adkins and Andrei Arlovski (who played the main villain in Regeneration) that takes place in a sporting goods store. They manage to find ways to use almost everything on hand during their brawl; medicine balls, free weights, baseball bats. You name it. And it is intensely violent. I wasn’t expecting it to go to the lengths that it does, but I’m not sorry that it did. As far as I’m concerned it brought more weight to Adkins’ dilemma. Both Van Damme and Lundgren get their time to shine as well and they still have what it takes to be in a well-choreographed action scene.
The cinematography has to be mentioned as well. There are some fantastic visuals on display here, from the opening scene that is shot completely in the first person from Adkins’ perspective to the crazy speed ramping during the car chase. It looked like Hyams and his camera crew went out of their way to give this film a unique look to sell the idea of the main character’s confusion and outsider point-of-view to the audience. I also think it was shot in 3D as well (in the documentary on the disc the crew is seen wearing 3D glasses to watch the dailies), which would have sold these stylistic choices even more. Although I did get seriously annoyed with all the strobe effects that are combined with fades to and from white. It’s almost blinding and I got a headache during one of the scenes.

But I do have a few qualms. Once the big twist is revealed and a few doubts I had up until that point were explained away, I still had a problem with the reality of certain details. Like the issue of blood loss. One character loses what appears to be pints upon pints of blood during the film’s last 30 minutes and never once does it seem to affect them in any way, shape or form. This character, who was wearing a bright white wife beater at the start of the finale, ends up with this thing absolutely soaked with their own blood from multiple cuts, a hole that was dug out of the back of their head and a giant hole that was drilled through their forehead where someone was attempting to rip something out of their brain. This person then goes on to participate in multiple fights where their head is repeatedly hit, smashed against walls and thrown around while executing somersaults. I can suspend disbelief up to a point, but when I see bullshit like this going down and it’s passed off as not that big of a deal I have to call it out.
I also have a problem with the ending in that IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE! Again, I will not spoil things for those that want to see this, but when certain events happen to the main character that are completely ignored and/or forgotten about in the final scene I once again have to point it out. And the final big twist?! WTF?! Was that just thrown in there to make us cock our heads to the side like confused dogs? I didn’t understand what the hell that was about and combined with the previous issue of glossed over details I have to say that the ending was nearly a deal breaker for me. Every cool idea, plot twist or bitchin’ fight scene was almost rendered neutral due to this hackneyed rubbish ending.

In the end I did enjoy Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning for its ballsy attempt to keep the franchise relevant, Adkins breakthrough performance, cool twists and the awesome action. But the nonsensical and contradictory ending almost killed it. A word of advice: when the time comes to make Universal Soldier 5… don’t drop the ball during the last 3 minutes. That’s the last impression the audience goes out on, and that will stick in their minds long after they leave the theater. I am a forgiving movie fan to an extent, but this almost pushed that to its limit.

3 out of 5

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

The relatively new trend of taking classic stories and mashing them up with horror elements, like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies or Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, is proving to be a lot of fun. I own a good number of these types of novels and the recent Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter film was pretty awesome. Now we have Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters in theaters so of course I had to check it out on opening night.

After killing a witch who wanted to eat them as children, Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) have grown up to be quite adept at killing anyone who uses dark magic upon society and are now bounty hunters. They are hired by the mayor of a small town to find a number of children that have been kidnapped by the elder witch Muriel (Famke Janssen).
It’s pure cheese, and that’s what I was expecting. Is it fun? In spurts, yes. There are plenty of cool weapons being used to take down multiple witches (the fold-out rifle was my favorite), fast paced action scenes, lots of goofy gore and neat-o special FX on display. And it’s always nice to see a film where the heroes get beat up just as much as the villains. There’s even a bitchin’ troll that was made practically and isn’t CGI. It’s a visual feast, that’s for sure. It’s everything else that is kind of underwhelming in my eyes.

The make-up used for all the evil witches looks especially awful. It’s like a child drew some scary pictures with crayons and a make-up artist used them for inspiration. The normally beautiful Famke Janssen gets the worst of them all. It’s an overly simplistic design that not only renders her unrecognizable but makes her look silly as well.
The performances, save two, are universally bad as well. Jeremy Renner not only looks like he would rather be anywhere else but on the set, but once in a while looks mildly pissed off that he landed the part. He does well in the action scenes though. Famke Janssen doesn’t fare much better. She is amazing in the first two X-Men films, but here she sleepwalks through her role of the main villain which is a variation on her Dark Phoenix character. She uses a bad English accent that comes and goes too often and isn’t scary or threatening at all. I read an interview she gave at a film festival where she stated that the only reason she took the part was due to the need to pay off her mortgage. It shows.

Gemma Arterton, from Quantum of Solace and Clash of the Titans, is the exact opposite of the actor playing her brother. She appears to be putting everything into her part and comes off as if she’s enjoying being an action heroine with every fiber of her being. Peter Stormare is turning into another Christopher Walken; his strange speech patterns elicit a giggle from me every time I see him in a movie. He doesn’t have a big part as the town’s sheriff, but he does all he can in the limited screen time he’s given.
The use of modern language is another aspect that got on my nerves. It’s not so bad hearing someone from the 18th century saying “shit” after firing their gun and missing their target, but when characters are screaming “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me”, “That’s awesome” or “We’re going to take that fucking bitch down” it annoyed me beyond belief. I wouldn’t mind it if it happened once for comedic effect, but it’s done repeatedly just to get a reaction from the audience. I’m sure that was producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s contribution to the film.

The script, written by director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow), is heavy on action and light on character. Sure we find out that due to Hansel being fed buckets of candy to fatten him up for a witch’s dinner as a child has left him severely diabetic (which has an excruciatingly shitty development during the finale) and that the heroes’ mother was a white witch who cast a protection spell upon them that left them immune to magic, we know very little about the main characters other than the fact that they are good at killing witches. The story leaps from one set piece to another with reckless abandon and introduces new characters so quickly that we barely get to know them either. His dialogue leaves a lot to be desired as well (“I hate to break this to you, but it isn’t gonna be an open casket”). He has a flair for visuals and not much else. If Wirkola couldn’t get a versatile Oscar nominated actor like Jeremy Renner to give a decent performance I doubt he has what it takes to make it in Hollywood. He doesn’t take the material far enough and that’s the film’s ultimate downfall.
Outside some cool action and violence there isn’t much to like about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Sure it’s fun when it needs to be and even has a few moments of brilliance (the anti-flying trap), but it’s basically a big budget SyFy Channel schlock-a-thon that pulls a little too much from modern day culture for my taste. Even though there is plenty of action I was bored more than once due to not giving a crap about any of the characters. But when you get down to it this flick is typical of what you’d expect of the theatrical offerings released in January, when all the movies the studios didn’t have any confidence in releasing elsewhere get dumped. And what’s worse is when you pay for a movie that’s in 3D, but the only parts that show off the format are the opening and ending credits. Boo!

It’s not a horrible movie, just a bland and disappointing one. I was expecting more and got something strictly middle of the road. I’m sure I’ll have more fun watching the recent direct-to-video offering FDR: American Badass. Well, maybe not.

2.5 out of 5

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pitch Perfect

Musicals are not my thing. I usually avoid them at all costs because I am insanely jealous of anyone who can carry a tune since I cannot. Just kidding. I find it unbearably cheesy when a character bursts out into song randomly in film. It’s a peeve of mine and nothing more. That is unless the movie has a certain something that sets it apart from the rest, be it an odd premise or a wicked sense of humor. Out of all the musicals ever made the only ones I can stomach are Grease (the perverted sense of humor), Little Shop of Horrors (the oddball horror comedy plot), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (it’s so freakin’ strange) and Repo! The Genetic Opera (it plays up to my industrial/goth music fixation). Outside of those I never go out of my way to watch a movie in that genre… ever.

People at my place of work have been talking up Pitch Perfect as if it’s the crown jewel of recent musical attempts. The anti-Glee as it were. So I went against my better judgment and decided to give it a shot regardless that it’s about singing a cappella pop songs.
Beca (Anna Kendrick) wants to be a DJ, but has to graduate from college first as a promise to her father. She becomes a member of an on campus female a cappella group led by the perfectionist Aubrey (Anna Camp) and the sweet Chloe (Brittany Snow), and along with a misfit group of girls attempt to win a local championship.

Basically what Pitch Perfect boils down to is that it’s a musical version of Bring It On with singing replacing the cheerleading. Every beat is nearly identical, (mostly) every joke is predictable and it is totally paint-by-the-numbers in execution. It’s so average on nearly every level that I had a hard time getting through it in one sitting.

I will say that the actresses do have pretty amazing singing voices. Whether Anna Kendrick actually sang or not I have no idea, but for the most part the other girls in the group do a great job covering hokey pop songs like “The Sign” by Ace of Base or “Like a Virgin” by Madonna. But they all tend to go completely overboard on the cattiness in the dialogue scenes. It became a little annoying the further the movie chugged along. In the end I can’t say that I liked any of the characters at all. Well, maybe one.
The only real positive aspect of the movie, at least to me, was Rebel Wilson. She seems so natural in not only the singing scenes but also all her highly adlibbed dialogue scenes. I read that takes involving her would extend past five or more minutes due to her improvisations, and every one of them that made it into the film were pretty hilarious (“God’s punishing you because you’re a ginger”). Her weight doesn’t seem to be an issue because she’s more or less a female Chris Farley; performing physical comedy seems to be yet another of her many talents.

Outside of that there’s everything you’d expect of a teen/college age comedy. Outcast girl finds outlet for her creativity, bonds with the group, falls in love, gets kicked out of group for retarded reasons and gets accepted back into the group at the last minute to save the day. It’s highly clichéd and not all that entertaining to be honest.
I found it amusing that actress Elizabeth Banks (Slither, The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Hunger Games) produced this movie as well as gave herself a plum role as a snarky commentator of the a cappella competitions, but couldn’t find one funny thing to say or do at all in the part. Normally that type of role steals the show, just look at Jason Bateman in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. He took a nothing extended cameo part and turned it into gold. Banks is a supremely talented comedic actress and I find it surprising that she bombed completely. Sad.

The rest of the cast is serviceable at best. The douchey male singing group weren’t amusing, just tiresome. The boyfriend role of Jesse, played by Skylar Astin, isn’t charming. He just kind of randomly falls in love with Anna Kendrick’s Beca and vice versa. It’s just thrown in there because it’s what’s expected to happen in this type of film. Even Jesse’s dorky creeper roommate Benji, played by newcomer Ben Platt, is not fun at all. He’s just there to be a crutch to Jesse and that’s all. And what’s worse is that the lead, Anna Kendrick, looks like she doesn’t even want to be in this damned movie.
The writing and direction is pretty flat and standard. You’d think that during the performance scenes there would be all kinds of flashy camera moves and the like to show off the girls strutting their stuff, but it’s all filmed like a big budget episode of American Idol. The Step It Up movies have more style and that’s really saying something negative about the look of this movie if I’m giving props to that back alley abortion franchise. Director Jason Moore probably found Rebel Wilson’s constant adlibbing to be tiresome, but it’s one of the only thing that saves this flick from being a total bore. Anything she came up with is better than all the shitty puns screenwriter Kay Cannon thought up (“You’re gonna get pitch slapped!”).

Like I said earlier, musicals are not my cup of tea. If Pitch Perfect had a better script or a more aggressive sense of humor I might have enjoyed it more. As it is it’s a supremely clichéd flick that does nothing to separate itself from the endless myriad of teen/college flicks outside of the a cappella angle. It’s by-the-book to a “T”, and on that note I give this flick a “D Major”.

Also, I can’t believe this was based on a novel. WTF?!

1.5 out of 5

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Killer Joe

The tagline for Killer Joe, the newest film from acclaimed director William Friedkin, is “A totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story”. As ridiculous as that sounds it completely sums up this crazy little flick in more ways than one.

Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is in a bit of a financial pickle, and along with his deadbeat Dad (Thomas Haden Church) comes up with a plan to hire local policeman/hitman Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to murder his mother so they can collect her life insurance money. When things go awry in more ways than one, Killer Joe demands that his payment for services rendered be the love of Chris’ simple sister, Dottie (Juno Temple).

I knew nothing of this film’s story before watching it, only that it had turned up on various “Top 10 Films of 2012” lists across the internet. Out of curiosity I rented it from the local Redbox and was enormously surprised at how engagingly deranged it was. I discovered that it was based on a stage play, which completely makes sense after watching it, and even though it features some horrific images and brutal violence it never stops being entertaining. In fact, as it played out before me I realized that it was basically a redneck version of Blood Simple. Not that that’s a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
It’s a simple story about simple people doing incredibly stupid things and dealing with the consequences in ridiculously stupid, and somewhat insane, ways. It is shot in a basic fashion to keep in line with its theater roots. The film, like a stage play, is all about the performances. I cannot stress how amazing the acting on display is here.

I don’t recall Matthew McConaughey ever playing a part like this before since as far back as I can remember he’s always been cast as the charming romantic lead (except in Reign of Fire or A Time to Kill), but being that I’m not a fan of his goes to show how awesome he is as Killer Joe if I’m giving him such accolades. He owns this film as Joe, who appears on the surface to be a calm and cool professional killer, but is basically a sad and lonely dirtbag who likes to intimidate and torture people just because he can due to the fact that he’s a cop. We get to see how brutal he can be (the final scene) and his awkward sensitive side (the dinner scene) and how twisted he can be (everything in between). He goes for broke and comes out aces. I have to give him props for accepting a role against type, especially after his acclaimed turn in Magic Mike. I think I will be paying a little more attention to his films in the future.
I’ve also never been a fan of Emile Hirsch or Thomas Haden Church either. But here they seem to be feeding off McConaughey’s craziness to amplify their own, and in turn give outstanding performances as the men of the completely dysfunctional family at the core of the story. Church’s sad sack of a father figure especially took me aback as he’s always playing the dominant male character or villain.

I’ve always known that Gina Gershon was a great actress (just watch her in Bound or The Insider), she only picks horrible movies to star in that never really give her a chance to show off her skills (Showgirls, Demonlover, Driven, Best of the Best 3). Here she starts off appearing to have a minor part that she’s slogging through, but at the halfway point she becomes a more prominent character and by the end she’s going toe-to-toe with Joe to compete for the title of Biggest Asshole of the Year. She comes out of nowhere and knocks her role out of the park, and even though she’s playing a horrible person she gives her character a small touch of sympathy that is welcome among all the double crossing going on.
The real reason to watch this movie is for Juno Temple. The only other movie I’ve seen her in was The Dark Knight Rises as Selina Kyle’s roommate, but as the simple-minded and innocent Dottie she proves that she has what it takes to be one of the new wave of crazy talented actors for the new generation. I never once saw her as an actress playing a part; she completely inhabits the role of Dottie and makes her a sweet and likable girl that doesn’t realize just how much everyone around her tries to control her life. Only when someone new attempts to remove her from this lifestyle does she begin to wise up and take matters into her own hands. I can’t wait to see what Juno Temple has in store for us in the future.

All of this would be for noting if not for the original material written by playwright Tracy Letts and director William Friedkin. After seeing this I might have to look up some of Letts’ previous work for shits and giggles. Friedkin, who directed classics like The Exorcist (which I’ve never been a fan of) and The French Connection (awesome!), proves he still has what it takes to make a solid film after most of his other work has been less than stellar (Rules of Engagement, The Hunted, Jade, Blue Chips, The Guardian). It’s material that I’m sure he found fascinating since most of his projects are a little on the perverted side, and this film has plenty of that going on during the finale (I’ll never look at fried chicken the same way again). He makes everything seem real and believable and keeps the actors from taking their ridiculous shenanigans into camp territory, which is something this movie could have easily slipped into. The fact that he was able to make all these horrible characters somewhat likeable is a feat in itself. But his greatest moment is that at one point, after an orgy of violence and depravity, he turns this gaggle of selfish, devious people into a family unit for one fleeting moment. Superb stuff.
But all is not superawesomeamazeballs up in the world of Killer Joe, particularly the unsatisfying and haphazard final moments of the film. Some startling revelations about characters are revealed, some truly fucked up shit goes down and then the movie just sort of ends during a major beat in the story. 30 seconds more is all I asked for out of closure’s sake, but I didn’t get it. I have to admit that I was extremely disappointed by this choice on the part of the filmmakers. Does it ruin the movie? Not at all.

If you see this film at the Redbox I highly recommend it. It might not be for all tastes since it is based on a stage play which means it’s mostly dialogue scenes and no real action, but the story is great and it features some awesome performances by talented people. It does go to a very dark place, but if you can handle that you’ll find it a very entertaining and surprisingly funny dark comedy of sorts. I for one loved it regardless of the lackluster ending. So much so that it’s on my list of “Favorite Films of 2012”.

4 out of 5