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DVD reviews: Killer Joe | Death Watch

Killer Joe

Killer Joe

  • by ALISTAIR HARKNESS
 

WILLIAM Friedkin serves up a supreme slice of “rednexploitation” with Killer Joe, an amped up adaptation of Tracy Letts’ pugnacious play of the same name about twisted family of Texan trailer trash who conspire to kill off the family matriarch to cash in on her life insurance.

Killer Joe

Entertainment One, £19.99

Too slack-jawed to do the job themselves, they employ the services of “Killer” Joe Cooper (Matthew McConnaughey), a professional hitman whose day job as a detective makes covering up his contract killing tracks more convenient. McConnaughey is something of a revelation here, tapping into a sleazy side that was hinted at in his breakout turn in Dazed & Confused, but subsequently buried as he pursued a lucrative career playing shirtless leading men in worthless rom-coms. Backed up by the fearless cast – Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple and Thomas Haden Church – reveling in the awfulness of Letts’ characters, McConnaughey is the coolly amoral centre around which a fired-up Friedkin crafts an increasingly depraved tale of betrayal that transcends the theatrical origins of its source material while refusing to pull its punches.

Death Watch

Park Circus, £15.99

Bertrand Tavernier’s Glasgow-set sci-fi film Death Watch finally makes it to DVD and Blu-ray after being largely unavailable since its initial release in 1980. Set in a near future scarred by a voyeuristic need to experience death and suffering on a reality TV show, the film stars Harvey Keitel as a television station employee who volunteers to have video cameras fitted inside his eyes to track a terminally ill woman (played by Romy Schneider) and broadcast her dying days to the nation. Though the prescience of this premise ensures the themes remain relevant, the main reason to see it is its use of Glasgow. From its opening crane shot rising high over the Necropolis, the film uses expansive widescreen cinematography to accentuate the drama of a city in which classical architecture sits alongside decaying buildings, tower blocks are offset by Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Art Nouveau designs, and green space contrasts wildly with industrial wastelands. It’s an imaginative and all-too-rare vision of a city more commonly used as a cinematic signifier for gutter-dwelling angst.

• To order these DVDs, call The Scotsman on 01634 832789

 

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2014

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