Translating stage plays to the big screen can be as frustrating as adapting books into film. Unlike books, however, play translations can actually get viewers closer to the material and perhaps a little more immersed, depending on the techniques used.
That said, you might not want to get too immersed in Tracy Lett’s Killer Joe. Lett’s play started running in the United Kingdom in 1993 before jumping to the United States for a successful New York run in 1998. Made in 2011, the film translation, written by Lett, stars Matthew McConaughey as the titular character. Joe is a cop who in his off-time carries out hits for a high price. He finds himself embroiled in the family drama of young Chris Smith who owes a lot of money to a drug dealer.
Chris’ plan? Off his mother and use her life insurance policy to pay Joe’s asking price. Things quickly get out of control from there. Killer Joe also stars Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, and Emile Hirsch. The film is directed by William Friedkin. You might recognize Friedkin from other films he’s directed, like The Exorcist, The French Connection and, unfortunately, The Hunted.
Killer Joe is slated for a limited July 27 theatrical release. We must note that the film is rated NC-17 for “graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality.” The reviews of the stage play note that there is full-frontal nudity and some chilling scenes of brutality, so you might want to be prepared for that if you plan on seeing this one.