Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Orlando Bloom Led KILLER JOE?

Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Orlando Bloom Led KILLER JOE?

Orlando Bloom leads the cast in Tracy Letts' black comedy thriller Killer Joe for a strictly limited 13-week run. Killer Joe, directed by Simon Evans at Trafalgar Studios 1 until 18 August 2018, is produced by Emily Dobbs Productions and Empire Street Productions.

The Smith family hatch a plan to murder their estranged matriarch for her insurance money. They hire Joe Cooper, a police detective and part-time contract killer, to do the job. But once he enters their trailer home and comes face to face with their innocent daughter, the plan spirals out of control... A tense, gut-twisting thriller, Killer Joe, asks where the moral line is drawn in the fight for survival.

The cast also comprises Sophie Cookson as Dottie, Adam Gillen as Chris, Neve McIntosh as Sharla and Steffan Rhodri as Ansel. Designs are by Grace Smart, with lighting by Richard Howell, compositions and sound design by Edward Lewis.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Dominic Maxwell, The Times: If this is a morality play, it's a queasy one. The director Simon Evans grabs hold of the poverty, the desperation, the sense of chaos unloosed. And though the men here tend to see women as angels or whores, Evans keeps the misogyny in their heads. There is psychological torture, there is nudity, there is violence, but no titillation. It all takes place on a fabulous set, by Grace Smart, that positions the Smith family's cramped trailer tightly between the glowing red windows of its neighbours.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: That last scene confirms my belief that Letts's characters all exist in some strange half-world. Bloom excellently suggests Joe's cool confidence, exaggerated politesse and head for business. He exudes easiness, style and restrained swagger, yet Bloom never lets you forget that Joe is a hired killer who also happens to be a ruthless policeman. The family, who say grace before dinner, are also torn between an ethical past and a debased present in which their values are dictated by an endless diet of TV cop shows such as Cannon and Mannix. Without being preachy, Letts's play is, among other things, an attack on a popular culture that distorts people's sense of reality.

Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard: In the end it's the shallowness of this two-hour piece that poses greater problems. Only Sophie Cookson's Dottie has any psychological depth, and Simon Evans's production never settles into a convincing rhythm. The press night audience ovated wildly, but the play is luridly inauthentic, and this revival misses much of its creepiness and grotesque humour.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: Arriving with a revolver at one hip, a Stetson on his head, Bloom makes his rugged, strutting presence felt throughout - every inch the handsome, brooding devil. Yet it doesn't feel like there's much going on under the surface, and his most repugnant behaviour - almost choking Neve McIntosh's Sharla with a chicken leg in a simulated act of fellatio - leaves the nastiest taste. As the clueless, drug-dealing younger Smith, Adam Gillen reprises too of the maniacal business he brought to Amadeus at the National. Only Sophie Cookson as the sweet, cynically exploited Dottie gives you much psychological food for thought. The chance to see Bloom (in the buff and otherwise) aside, it looks like a quintessential summer filler.

Paul Taylor, Independent: Bloom's fine performance gathers in intensity and by the end he's in full sinister command of the stage. The normally excellent Steffan Rhodri seems wasted, though, as Ansel, the beer-bellied red-neck father whose first answer is that "I haven't given it much thought" when Joe, in the process of molesting Ansel's wife, asks if he thinks she's a beautiful woman. The production will sell out because of its star but, in general, it's disappointing and leaves the play looking somewhat dated.

Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter: It's unfortunate, then, that the production at London's Trafalgar Studios - a theater with a reputation for high-energy interpretations of dark-hued pieces - doesn't deliver the requisite impact this time around. Capturing only some of Killer Joe's dark humor and creeping unease, this staging doesn't exercise anything like the stranglehold that it might. And the chief problem is its above-the-title star, who fails to convince as one of modern theater's most unique villains.

Tim Bano, The Stage: With Orlando Bloom in the lead as corrupt cop/contract killer Joe Cooper, Simon Evans' production will obviously sell but, despite Bloom's protestations, one thing is for sure: there is nothing remotely feminist, empowering or timely in watching a woman forced to simulate oral sex on a chicken leg in a production written and directed by men. Even putting aside the play's toxicity for the moment, under Evans all the acting is so painfully mannered that the cast forgets to be human, despite the pedigree of excellent actors such as Steffan Rhodri and Neve McIntosh.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

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