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Joker  (DVD)


Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Brett Cullen, Sharon Washington

Director: Todd Phillips

Thoroughly nasty, violent and unpleasant, but compelling viewing, Phillips' film examines the genesis of Batman's deadliest enemy. Arthur Fleck (his locker says 'P Fleck'), exceptionally well played by Phoenix, is a deeply disturbed man in early middle age, who (like his mother - played by Conroy - whom he looks after in their fleapit apartment) suffers from long-term mental illness, as well as a medical condition causing uncontrollable cackling laughter.

Currently, he works as a clown-for-hire and harbours ambitions of becoming a stand-up comedian; the opening scene establishes him as a sympathetic character as he is beaten up by teenage tearaways while advertising a store in his clown's outfit - although he will lose some of that sympathy as the film goes on.

The camera concentrates on Phoenix's face, as every little tic and grimace contrives to flesh out an incredibly detailed portrayal that's as repellent as it is compulsive - although the sheer intensity of this gets a bit extreme at times, and the film can't quite escape the faint tang of self-importance.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2019. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by Company 3.
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Feb 2020