Missing presumed dead in the wake of a string of duds, ‘The Exorcist’ director William Friedkin’s edge made a vicious comeback in 2006 with ‘Bug’: a feverish, claustrophobic psychodrama adapted by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts from his own play. Clearly a step in the right direction, Friedkin concluded; he’s stuck with the Oklahoman playwright for his follow-up.
A bristly adaptation of Letts’s first play, this riotously nasty trailer-park noir makes no apologies for its debt to Tennessee Williams, though even Williams might have baulked at some of the warped goings-on in this Southern family. Hounded by money-chasing gangsters, young hoodlum Chris (Emile Hirsch) hits upon a solution: having his mother killed and raking in the insurance payout. A bent cop moonlighting as an assassin, Joe (Matthew McConaughey) is happy to oblige. But when Chris can’t pay the deposit, Joe claims his sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a sexual ‘retainer’. Fun for all the family ensues, with virginal Dottie taking to Joe with disquieting ease, assorted characters getting beaten to the consistency of mince, and Gina Gershon (excellent as Hirsch’s scuzzy stepmother) doing things with a drumstick that may put you off KFC for life.
Friedkin’s direction is rough and ready, but Letts’s tangy writing is the star here. Or perhaps that distinction should go to Temple: as a guileless baby-doll turned ravenous Lolita, the 23-year-old Brit is the standout among an already sparky ensemble. Guy Lodge