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“Lynne Ramsay’s stark inversion of the noir thriller is a devastatingly brutal portrayal of one man’s battle with repression and abuse, anchored by a rage-fuelled, Cannes-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Joe (Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire, specialising in saving victims from child sex rings and living at home with his ailing mother.
When Nina, a US Senator’s daughter, is kidnapped, he is contracted to dispense with the perpetrators and save the girl (Ekaterina Samsonov is hauntingly good). Having located Nina in a seedy New York brothel, Joe’s escape plan suddenly derails, unleashing a maelstrom of violence that ultimately takes him deeper into the hallucinatory darkness and closer to the truth.
Working from Jonathan Ames’ 2013 novel, Ramsay (who jointly won the best screenplay award in Cannes) is more concerned with the psyche of her unhinged protagonist than she is with the action, and she eschews the spoken word in favour of Phoenix’s eloquent, line-ravaged face…
Her taut, syncopated cinema is intensified by Jonny Greenwood’s pulsating score, Thomas Townend’s expressive camerawork and razor-sharp editing from Joe Bini.” — Clare Stewart, London Film Festival
“Ramsay has made a film that burns so much brighter and cuts so much deeper than any such story has a right to. Do you remember the first time you saw Taxi Driver? Like in Scorsese’s early masterpiece, Ramsay achieves a kind of uncanny soulmate synergy with her star.” — Jessica Kiang, The Playlist