McCleary said you’re brutal.
I can be.
I want you to hurt them.
I hadn’t seen a Lynne Ramsay film prior to checking this one out. I don’t expect I’ll be prioritizing checking any others out anytime soon, I must say. This isn’t to say that Ramsay is a bad filmmaker; she very obviously has an artistic vision and she executes it. I’d venture to say this is exactly the movie she wanted it to be. It’s just that I feel no affinity whatsoever for the movie she made. Joaquin Phoenix was the big draw for me here and, for what it’s worth, he gives a typically fine performance. He plays Joe, a badly damaged veteran who makes his way through the world rescuing women from abusive situations, typically by hitting their abusers in the head repeatedly with a hammer. I know, right? This is why I saw the movie in the first place. As the movie begins, he’s given a kind of difficult job, finding the kidnapped daughter of a Senator; she’s been taken in by a pedophile ring run by some powerful people. Joe’s hammer will get more of a workout than usual on this one. But I just really bounced off the movie because of Ramsay’s style, which is to kind of make the entire movie like it was a montage. It’s a very self-conscious film and reaching for a very self-conscious kind of art that, frankly, a story like this doesn’t need. This needs to really be a gritty, intense piece of work, but the camera is floaty and the images it captures are kind of ethereal and Ramsay’s operating on a kind of “tone poem” level of filmmaking where she’s evoking emotion through colors and music and such. There are long stretches with no dialogue and the film feels extremely slow. Phoenix’s performance, good as it is, kind of struggles to get through with the impact it needs and the film feels very anti-climactic with a really annoying ending. It isn’t just that the film’s rhythms are weird though. There’s an incredibly strange scene that really, really works at one point that finds Phoenix’s Joe fighting a man who has come to kill him; he ends up mortally wounding the man and Joe just sits with the man on the floor of the kitchen while he slowly dies. It’s a really strange scene, very quiet and then eventually Phoenix even softly sings to the dying man, but it’s also somehow beautiful and striking and feels like a real moment of human connection. I wish the movie had more of those kinds of scenes, but it really doesn’t. Too bad; I wanted to like this movie, but I sure didn’t. 1 ½ stars.
tl;dr – a solid lead performance from Phoenix can’t overcome the bizarre stylistic choices of director Ramsay; a good scene here or there isn’t enough to justify a watch of this one. 1 ½ stars.