07/24/2012 11:30 am ET

'Killer Joe' Screening Hosted By Cinema Society Brings Out Matthew McConaughey, Courtney Love (PHOTOS)

This is arguably not the best time to be releasing a new film titled “Killer Joe.”

Thankfully, this gleefully twisted NC-17 trailer-park thriller has nothing to do with events like those that horrified the nation at the end of last week, when a former grad student named James Holmes killed 12 people and injured many more during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado.

The title character of "Killer Joe," played with sociopathic charm by Matthew McConaughey, is a Dallas police detective who moonlights as a hit man. Joe is bad, bad news, but it’s hard to say if he’s worse than the spectacularly dysfunctional family that hires him. There’s Chris (Emile Hirsch), a down-on-his-luck drug dealer who hatches the idea to kill his own mother so he can cash in on her insurance policy; Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church), Chris’s rock-headed father, who half-heartedly goes along with the scheme; and Sharla (Gina Gershon), Ansel’s wife, whose much-flaunted sexuality is even more dangerous than her frequently flying fists. Caught between that hot mess and the cool menace of McConaughey’s Joe is Chris’ 12-year-old sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), who has a few issues of her own.

Directed by Oscar-winner William Friedkin (The French Connection) and written by Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy Letts (August Osage County), Killer Joe had its U.S. premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival and opens this Friday in limited release. Last night, the Cinema Society and Bally hosted a screening for the film at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, in downtown Manhattan, attended by McConaughey, Gershon, Letts, Friedkin and a wide assortment of recognizable faces.

“It’s just a little fairy tale,” McConaughey said by way of introducing the film. “I hope you laugh. I hope you gag.”

In red-carpet interviews before the film showed, the creative team rejected efforts to draw a link between on-screen violence and last week’s real-life atrocity. “That crazy motherfucker had an AR-47 and 6,000 rounds of ammunition,” Letts told The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Zakarin. “Anybody who would point the finger at us and our little fried-chicken movie, as opposed to the ability to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition, is out of their goddamn mind.”

The film drew laughs -- and gasps -- from those in attendance, many of whom were there in support of the ever-popular Gershon. The actress’ brave and brutal performance wasn't easy for her friends to watch. "I didn't expect that," Kyle MacLachlan -- no stranger to disturbing roles himself -- said after it was over.

After the screening, guests made their way to No. 8, the latest venture from nightlife veteran Amy Sacco. Gershon exchanged hugs with MacLachlan and fashion designer John Varvatos, while celebrity photographer Terry Richardson hovered near the entrance, taking pictures with the rest of the shutterbugs. Sacco maneuvered around the room, letting Courtney Love, Alan Cumming, Nicky Hilton, Russell Simmons and other famous folks know that they were free to sip their free DeLeón tequila concoctions in the VIP section upstairs, but some -- like Tony Danza and Lauren Hutton -- seemed content to stay downstairs with the mere mortals.

See who else was there by clicking through our slideshow, below.



"Killer Joe" Screening Hosted By The Cinema Society