For the first two-thirds or so of this film, I was shaking my head, thinking "Spike Lee is dead"*, and basically the only thing keeping me invested at all was Clarke Peters. Then there's a twist, or rather a great turn, and suddenly the film kicks into high gear and becomes something absolutely incredible
Lee is extending a hyyyyyuge ol' middle finger to Tyler Perry here, to the old, condescending "Jesus solves all the black people's problems" trope. People will hate him for this, because he's not just asking uncomfortable questions but actively working to make us uncomfortable.
Let me put it this way: I cringed but later mostly shrugged off much of Killer Joe, even the infamous drumstick scene. It's outrageous and evil, but also silly and heightened. There's a scene in this movie that made me do a protracted, full-body cringe, and I still can't shake how awful watching it made me feel. It's heartbreaking to behold, and it's utterly in the service of the movie's larger point. It's looking at sin and redemption in a gritty, honest way.
I cannot stress enough how fantastic Clarke Peters is in this. He's bombastic and righteous and charismatic and everything good, and when he needs to he gathers so much gravity he could become a black hole of great actingness (....That was terrible. Why am I a writer). The man won't be getting an Oscar nomination, but he fucking should be.
It's way too long and the child actors are horrid, but the last act saved this movie, and made it more than worthwhile. I want all y'all to watch it, so that we can delve further into it.
*At least as a fiction filmmaker. His documentaries are still great.