Most people know William Friedkin as the director of The Exorcist, and for winning the Best Picture and Best Director prizes for The French Connection.
After two big hits back to back, Friedkin's career went downhill, although his follow up to The Exorcist, Sorcerer, which did no business in the wake of Star Wars, was a hell of a movie, and it definitely deserves a second look.
Like a number of the "new Hollywood" directors of the '70's, Friedkin has been written off as a filmmaker who had his best work back in that fabled moviemaking decade, and has been washed up ever since.
But now Friedkin may actually return with a winner with Killer Joe, a smaller film that's gotten positive reviews, and good buzz on the festival circuit.
The Hollywood Reporter calls it an "enjoyably cynical, blood-spattered noir comedy," while the HuffPo reports the film has so far gotten an overall rating of A- among the reviews they've gathered.
They quoted WhatCulture as saying Killer Joe was "one of the best films I have seen from a rather disappointing or at least underwhelming bunch of efforts from this year's Venice Film Festival," and The London Evening Standard called it, a "gusty, sexy, violent film that out Tarantino's Tarantino, and may even test the censors."
For fans of Friedkin, who have always been attracted to the dark, edginess of his best work, this is definitely good news.
Killer Joe is based on a stage play by Tracy Letts, where a small-time drug dealer hires "Killer Joe," a dirty cop who does hits on the side, to kill his mother for the insurance money. But the dealer can't pay up right away, so he offers his sister as collateral. (Matthew MacConaughey, who could also use a hit, plays Joe in the movie, and Michael Shannon, who's currently playing General Zod in Man of Steel, played Joe on the stage).
Among us film buffs, even if a favorite director hasn't made a good movie in a long time, you still have goodwill for them in your heart, and always hope they'll make another winner down the road. With some, like Brian DePalma, that hope grows increasingly dim, but he's made enough of my all time favorite movies, including Carrie and Scarface, that he'll always be one of my fave filmmakers.
Yes, Killer Joe probably won't bring Friedkin back to the glory days of his '70's peak, but it's still probably a good step back in the right direction.