Joker: Visually Striking Horror Film Treads Familiar Ground

2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)

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Joker may well be the most controversial film of the year.  From the moment its first trailer dropped, peoples’ reactions have varied across the board, some calling the film a masterpiece and others deeming it a dangerous film in our society.  Personally, I think Joker is like a stand-up comic who steals someone else’s jokes: They know the basic setup of the gag, but falter when delivering the punch line.

Arthur Fleck (a committed Joaquin Phoenix) is a mentally-ill man with a job as a sign twirler who lives with his mother (Frances Conroy) and idolizes TV talk-show host Murray Franklin (An energetic Robert De Niro).  Arthur’s life goes down the toilet after a series of bad days lead to him murdering some attackers whilst wearing clown makeup.  Now with a taste for violence and the attention of Gotham City gained, Arthur will rise to become one of its most dangerous criminals, The Joker.  Oh yeah, Zazie Beetz plays a cute girl across the hall who could have been cut out with nothing lost.

Joker is written and directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy), and he unfortunately borrows from the work of Martin Scorsese (who also produced this) without the depth or nuance that made Scorsese films great.  Joker is kept afloat by committed performances, hypnotic camerawork and a creepy score, but has nothing new or interesting to say about its title character.

Joker is a movie made by someone who wanted to honor his favorite director instead of making something original.  Strong performances, a memorable score, and a horrifying ending keep it afloat, but this Joker can’t get the last laugh.  See it if you were interested beforehand, skip it if you weren’t.

Rated R for Strong Bloody Violence, Disturbing Behavior, Language, and Brief Sexual Images

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