William Friedkin’s uncomfortably funny thriller is hard to enjoy, but easy to admire. Taking this disturbing trip into a sweaty, depraved backalley of Americana is Emile Hirsch, a small-time drug dealer owing a life-threatening debt, who persuades his trailer-trash father (Thomas Haden Church) to have his estranged wife contract killed, and claim the life insurance. Naturally, things do not go according to plan.
From Gina Gershon’s pubic hair onwards, it’s clear Friedkin’s appetite for provocation has not dimmed, and the veteran director’s eye is as sharp as ever. Knockout performances come from future Brit star Juno Temple and rarely-this-good Matthew McConaughey, as the indomitable psychopath Joe. The script, from playwright Tracy Letts, is unpredictable and sometimes uneven, with many long, dialogue-heavy scenes better suited to the stage, but it is powerfully dense and often blackly comic, especially as a knowing study of social graces in the deep south. And McConaughey’s unexpected new career trajectory, from shirtless heartthrob to complex anti-hero, continues apace. [John Nugent]