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Review: Killer Joe

Class act: Orlando
Bloom, left and
inset, as bent cop
Joe, who is hired to
kill for a life
insurance payout


Killer Joe

Trafalgar Studios, London ★★★★✩

THE classiest guy in this Texas-set thriller is Orlando Bloom’s menacing Joe. He’s a cop who, from his Stetson to his cowboy boots, is more bent than a coat hanger, and who hires himself out to those who want someone dead and can pay 25,000 bucks.

The other men here are what might be called trash. Drug dealer Chris (Adam Gillen) and his dad Ansel (Steffan Rhodri) hire Joe to murder Chris’s mother, also Ansel’s ex. The plan is to collect the life insurance after it goes to Chris’s young sister Dottie (Kingsman’s Sophie Cookson) who is happy to see her mother murdered because of the time she tried to smother her as a baby.

Now, since Tracy Letts wrote his violent 1993 play — later a movie starring Matthew McConaughey — linking the word ‘trash’ to a kind of abode is seen as offensive. But there is no avoiding the fact that this particular family reside in a trailer. And what Letts’s pitch-black comedy reveals is that for some families trapped in this poverty pit, depravity has become their normal.

Chris’s stepmom Sharla (Shetland’s Neve McIntosh) is the kind of woman who answers the door nude. Bloom fans also get an eyeful when his Joe, who has installed himself in Dottie’s bed as part down payment for the murder, confronts an intruder butt naked (to the delight of Bloom’s girlfriend Katy Perry who posted her admiration for the Pirates Of The Caribbean star’s cheeks on social media during a preview performance).

And as if to underline the lack of etiquette, there’s a hilarious moment when Joe wants to make a speech and tries to attract attention by tapping his polystyrene cup with his plastic fork.

Yet what shocks is the calm with which children and their father discuss murdering their mother.

Simon Evans’s gripping production never quite expunges doubt that this slice of social deprivation is intended to entertain rather than prick social consciences. But the excellent Bloom is full of menace, and the question as to whether the sheer matinee-idol prettiness of this star prevents him from convincing in such an ugly role, is well answered.