William Friedkin, by now almost 80 years old, did not only deliver premium grade in his career. On the other hand, which director did? He definitely was a genre pioneer with movies like French Connection, The Exorcist, Cruising or To Live and Die in L.A. that still set Hollywood standards today.
Even after half a century in the businees, the maestro still managed to pull a fascinating genre piece out of his sleeve: Friedkin himself adapted Tracy Letts's theatre play Killer Joe for the screen. This dark loser ballad could even be seen for nine months at the Broadway where it starred, among others, Scott Glenn or Amanda Plummer. Here, the actors Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church prove their bravery by their portrayal of really broken and ugly characters. Especially Matthew McCounaghey shines with a performance that some deemed oscar-worthy and dominates every scene as soon as he enters the picture.
Unfortunately, however, the most famous of all movie awards does not really go along with fried chicken.
Friedkin's unorthodox and uncompromising way to handle strange characters and themes is of course not exactly universally liked. The US agency MPAA had doubts about the movie achieving the financially attractive R-Rating even before it was released. Eventually, it was released as an uncut NC-17 with only three copies in the US cinemas because Friedkin did not want to alter his movie by cutting it. Friedkin comments on it sounded as follows:
"Cutting would not have made it mass appeal. Cutting it would have been the equivalent of what members of the United States government and military leaders said about the Vietnam War. They said, "We have to destroy Vietnam in order to save it," and that's what I would have done to Killer Joe. To get an R-Rating I would have had to destroy it in order to save it and I wasn't interested in doing that."
Friedkin's work has to be known in order to understand this statement. The arrangement of explicitly depicted or alluded themes for the viewer's imagination that can go close to the bone does not happen by chance. There are always some certain elements the director wants the audience to see, even if they have to suffer, and some that have only secondary roles.
At least for the scene which obviously was the reason for the MPAA's attitude towards the movie and that was altered for the R-Rated DVD, one can actually talk about the destruction of it. It is therefore quite surprising that this version, which, following Friedkin, was seen as impossible, was released at all. The home cinema release of the NC-17 version, however, was published as Unrated Director's Cut.
7 cut scenes = 35,5 Sec.
3 alternative shots
Sharla starts sucking at the chicken leg. Joe moans "Easy...easy."
A cut to Carla, who is still sucking the chicken leg, is missing.
The R-Rated shows the shot of Joe without interruption, lengthening it insignificantly.
Joe asks Ansel in this shot "What do you think?". The R-Rated Version features the question from the off in the following shot of Ansel.
The R-Rated shows Joe talking in a longer shot of himself and then an alternative shot of Ansel sitting down on the bench. The original features two shots from further away showing Sharla during her forced blow job.
The Unrated Version runs a bit longer.
R-Rated: 11,5 sec./Unrated: 13,5 sec.
The shot of Ansel can be seen a moment longer. Joe then asks twice: "Reach around and grab my ass!". Sharla obeys.
The R-Rated Version mainly shows the shot of Joe longer and the alternative shot of Ansel before the shot from further away can be seen for a short time. The latter can be seen the whole time in the Unrated Version.
No difference in running time
The R-Rated Version shows the previous and following shots of Joe longer/earlier, whereas the Unrated cuts to a close-up of Sharla complying with Joe's demands and starting to moan.
R-Rated: 8 sec./Unrated: 7 sec.
The shot starts a bit earlier with an additional (first) blow of the can against Chris' head.
Another blow is missing.
Joe beats Chris with the can three more times agains the head and in the face, Chris spits out blood. Additional shot of Dottie screaming "Oh God!".
The MPAA overlays at the end differ display the different rating for the two versions.
no difference in running time