Out in cinemas this weekend, Killer Joe has received strong reviews – but also attracted the ire of censors in the US, who rewarded it a hugely restrictive NC-17 certificate.
In the film 22 year-old Chris Smith (Hirsch) is a drug dealer down on his luck, but things are about to go from bad to worse when he hires the unexpectedly charming hit man Killer Joe (McConaughey) to murder his own mother for her $50,000 life insurance policy.
With barely a dollar to his name Chris agrees to offer up his younger sister, Dottie (Temple), as sexual collateral in exchange for Joe’s services until he receives the insurance money.
Having already talked to us about his reasons for choosing to direct Killer Joe, Friedkin – who famously helmed The Exorcist and The French Connection – talked to us at length about the ratings controversy.
“I find the whole ratings system hypocritical,” he told us. “First of all, it’s a self-governing body of the Motion Picture Association of America, which is the major studios.
“You will never see a major studio get an NC-17 rating, which is a draconian, restrictive rating. The ratings board, we have no idea who they are. They’re anonymous people.
“If you have any children, you presumably know the names of the teachers of your children, or even the principal’s name. You know the name of the mayor of your town, often the governor of the state, or the representative.
“You know who the people are who are making these rules, and if you don’t like the way your children are being taught, or you don’t like the rules that are being enforced by the authorities, you vote them out.
“But we don’t know how someone gets on the ratings board – if it’s political, are they appointed by a certain political party at the time? Who are they? We don’t know their names. They have no book of rules. There’s nothing in writing that says ‘If you do this, your rating will be that.’ It’s strictly subjective. It’s a bunch of people to whom they will form a consensus – never with a major studio film, which I find strange – to give the film an NC-17.”
He continued: “There are films out there that are far more graphically violent, and with much more sexual content and language than anything in Killer Joe – and they don’t have the restricted rating.
“The only way I could have got rid of that rating is to cut the picture to ribbons, to satisfy a group of people who I not only don’t respect, I don’t even know who they are.”
MORE ON KILLER JOE
- Legendary director William Friedkin talks to STV about Killer Joe – and how Matthew McConaughey has reclaimed career
- Review: Killer Joe packs a punch at Edinburgh International Film Festival
- Red carpet rolls out as Killer Joe opens 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival