He is not, usually, the maniacal, predatory hitman, with a penchant for young girls, and a general disregard for life and morals. Yet he excels in exactly that role  in William Friedkin’s gloriously twisted comedy thriller.

McConaughey is Detective Joe Cooper, who’s hired as an assassin by Emile Hirsch’s drug dealer, Chris, to kill his mother so he might claim an inheritance. Predictably, though, things don’t go to plan, and Joe begins a dubious relationship with Chris’s younger sister Dottie, as part of his ‘retainer’ until he is paid in full.

Adapted by Tracey Letts’ from her own novel, this is a sleazy trailer park tale, loaded with double crosses by dumbasses whose incompetence is the only thing for which they can be relied upon. Thomas Hayden Church is superb as Chris’s deadbeat dad, Brit youngster Juno Temple fearless as his damaged sister, and Gina Gershon gleefully revulsive as the trashy stepmom with eyes on the money.

Friedkin nails the smutty, seedy tone, and injects a dark, and often uncomfortable, sense of humour – one sequence in particular will change the way you look at fried chicken for evermore. The Exorcist helmer wraps his hands around this pulpy material, immersing the audience in a Texas of trailers, strip clubs and bottom-rung hoodlums. But it is McConaughey’s film, the Texan-born star showing himself as an actor in a whole new light.

Good for: Those who like their comedy as dark as Texas’s syrupy oil

%TNT Magazine% stars 4

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