The Classification and Rating Appeals Board voted that the movie is unfit for children younger than 17 because of "graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.”
The Appeals Board heard statements on behalf of "Killer Joe" from David Dinerstein, President of LD Entertainment, and Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who also wrote the "Killer Joe" screenplay.
"Killer Joe" stars McConaughey as a police officer who moonlights as a hitman. A brother and sister, played by Hirsch and Juno Temple, hire him to kill their mother for the insurance money.
William Friedkin directed the movie, which LD Entertainment is distributing. Its U.S. premiere was at the SXSW Festival earlier this month, where it was very well received.
"We are disappointed as we do not feel this film warrants an NC –17 and that is why we appealed it . Our director, William Friedkin, is currently in Vienna and we are determining our next steps," David Dinerstein, President of LD Entertainment, said in a written statement.
An NC-17 rating is a significant blow to a movie's chances of commercial success. Many major movie theater chains are reluctant to show NC-17 movies, and one won't show them at all.
Last year's "Shame," starring Michael Fassbender, received an NC-17, and, at its widest release, played in 95 locations. The film grossed a total of $3.9 million domestically. The highest-grossing NC-17 movie of all time is the 1995 movie "Showgirls," which grossed $20.3 million domestically and played at 1,388 locations in its widest release.