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Joker

USA / Canada 2019
produced by
Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Richard Baratta (executive), Bruce Berman (executive), Joseph Garner (executive), Aaron L. Gilbert (executive), Walter Hamada (executive), Michael E. Uslan (executive) for Village Roadshow, BRON Studios/Warner Brothers
directed by Todd Phillips
starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, Leigh Gill, Josh Pais, Rocco Luna, Marc Maron, Sondra James, Murphy Guyer, Douglas Hodge, Dante Pereira-Olson, Carrie Louise Putrello, Sharon Washington, Hannah Gross, Frank Wood, Brian Tyree Henry, April Grace, Mick Szal, Carl Lundstedt, Michael Benz, Ben Warheit, Gary Gulman, Sam Morril, Chris Redd, Mandela Bellamy, Demetrius Dotson II, Greer Barnes, Ray Iannicelli, Bryan Callen, Peter Benson, Vito Gerbino, Adam Quezada, Xavyer Ureña, Evan Rosado, Damian Emmanuel, Mike Troll, Jane Fergus, David Gibson, Tony D. Head, Jeff McCarthy, Kim Brockington, Troy Roberts, Lou Young, Michael-Scott Druckenmiller, Craig Austin, John Cenatiempo, Danny Schoch, Keith Buterbaugh, James Ciccone, Rich Campbell, Roger Squitero, Steven Elson, Graham Mabry, John Alldred, Alonzo Wright, Jack Wilkins, Richard Baratta
screenplay by Todd Phillips, Scott Silver, based on characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson for DC Comics, music by Hildur Gušnadóttir, visual effects by Scanline VFX, Shade VFX

Joker, Batman (sort of)

review by
Mike Haberfelner




Gotham City, the late 1970s: Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a pathetic little man, making a few bucks a day as a clown for hire and still living with his ailing mother (Frances Conroy). And while on the job he's even brutally attacked and beaten by a bunch of youngsters, who destroy one of his props - and the cost of said prop is taken out of his pay, too. But Arthur has big dreams, to one day become a famous stand-up comedian and appear on Murray Franklin's (Robert De Niro) talk show. But instead, when performing at a children's hospital, a gun he carries for protection falls out of his costume, and he's fired pretty much on the spot. On the subway on his way home, he shoots dead three Wall Street guys (Carl Lundstedt, Michael Benz, Ben Warheit), who might have behaved like assholes but didn't deserve to die all the same. Interestingly, this murder is applauded by the disenfranchised as an act of rebellion against the upper class, while the city's richest man Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) calls those applauding the killing of the three - employees of his as it turns out - as the real "clowns" ... something that's soon picked up by the poor who plan city-wide protests for better living conditions in clown make-up.

Arthur has his first gig as a stand-up - and fails miserably, so much so that some of his appearance is shown on the Murray Franklyn show ... to make fun of him. But Arthur is invited onto the show by Murray, where he appears as a clown, on the very day of above protests, and he insists on being called "Joker". By now, Arthur has pretty much gone off the rocker, and he brings a gun to Murray's show. Of course, the outcome is bloody, and on live TV, too ...

A subplot not essential to the main story involves Thomas Wayne and his wife (Carrie Louise Putrello) being killed (after watching the George Hamilton spoof Zorro the Gay Blade of all movies) by a man in a clown mask (not Arthur) in front of the eyes of their son Bruce (Dante Pereira-Olson) - yep, it's the Batman-origin.

 

A film more in the tradition with violent anti hero character studies from the 1970s and early 1980s like Taxi Driver or King of Comedy than any of the current comicbook movies, the (only by Hollywood standards) modestly budgeted Joker didn't enjoy the full trust of its studio to make it big, but became a surprise hit - which of course is partly due to the fact that it is an offspring of the Batman-franchise even if the film's story doesn't follow any of the canonical Joker origins and stays welcomely clear of the hyperboles, big explosions and massive suspensions of disbelief of your everyday superhero movie - in fact, the film would have (narratively) worked just as well would it have been called "Clown" with all ties to the Batman-comics cut (and frankly, the tagged on Batman-origin felt a bit out of place anyways) and the character names changed - but it probably wouldn't have done nearly as well at the box office.

 

All this though says little about the actual quality of the movie: Now the good, the film has a raw and gritty atmosphere to it that seems real rather than generic (even if director Todd Phillips can't - and doesn't - deny being inspired especially by Martin Scorsese), it's bleak and violent in all the right places, but at the same time invokes sympathy for its anti-hero - even if his deeds are often horrible - and allows him a proper character arc. At the same time, the script is also a bit of a let-down as it over-simplifies things and at times aims too clearly to its ending, and other than Arthur, there are no real characters here, just underdeveloped figures Arthur runs into. That said, Joaquin does a terrific job to have his Arthur appear horrible and relatable at the same time, and he's supported by a solid cast.

As a result, this is no masterpiece maybe, but one of the best pictures that has come out of big studio Hollywood in 2019!

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD