Viewed – 24 July 2018 Online rental
I like Joaquin Phoenix and it has to be said, you never really know what you’re in for with his movies. He’s weird but fascinating and usually at least his performance is something to come away appreciating regardless of the movie. This thriller has him as ‘Joe’ a grizzled, world-weary hit man, who takes jobs from various shady contacts, killing whomever he’s told to for a cash sum whilst otherwise going about his life, caring for his ailing mother and haunted by a troubling past.
There are strong echoes of the seminal Taxi Driver here, with similar themes of feeling disaffected by the world surround oneself and wanting to find some sort of meaning within the murk, the grime and the sleaze. Once Joe however stumbles upon a case of a runaway girl who may have fallen victim to a child sex trafficking ring, a new found purpose emerges which quickly comes with unexpected repercussions. It lacks the dry wit of Martin Scorsese’s classic, and plays out in a rather unique fashion, hardly showing any of the violence that is clearly taking place, preferring jump cuts and fancy editing to give a sense of dread and hopelessness, which works well. However with a vague approach to the details, especially surrounding Joe’s past, this proves frustrating and with performances that are mostly blank stares and silence (and sometimes words uttered so lazily it’s hard to actually make them out) … for all this is trying to achieve, it ends up annoying in equal measure.
Director Lynne Ramsay has certainly delivered a different kind of thriller; sort of like Taken but with absolute realism in place of Hollywood action … a movie that lingered in my memory, disturbed me but was ultimately unfulfilling – reflective I’d say of the central character’s life. Perhaps that was the point.
Verdict: 3 /5