Gotham is revived in living color and in inauspicious despair as it bears growing lawlessness that commands the centric theme of the highly-anticipated character study on the harlequin of hate who has been praised as a saint for exiles throughout the ages – Joker.
The notorious, infamous, face-painted, and fearmongering character has been one that has become, in sorts, a mockery of itself in recent years. This unique, undeniably chilling analysis seems to paint over the shame of Jared Leto’s interpretation of the same baddie in Suicide Squad and paves the way for a fresh, frightening new look at the clown outcast from the social hierarchy.
Through a cinematic experience that is restlessly uneasy and drenched in violence, DC Entertainment challenges themselves to once more retell the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) and his painful down spiral from a fresh perspective, picking and choosing heavy influences from Taxi Driver, You Were Never Really Here, and A Clockwork Orange.
Phoenix emblematizes the severities of mental illness and how it manipulates Fleck, a man who has not once experienced the joys of having a “good day” in his life. His sorrow is portrayed so thickly, it can be nearly tangible. From the misery, the twisted, merciless, tormented persona of the Joker is created and stands as an extension of who he wishes to become, finding ecstasy in the thrill of unhinged chaos. Boiled down to the core, Joker rears its ugly head as it unearths the reality behind how truly comfortable our society has become when coming down to lacking empathy for others.
There is a plea for sympathy for Fleck, but in no way is there a plea for forgiveness to his actions. His deranged evildoing is not to be glamorized in glitter and gold, but instead, to deliver a deeper message.
This film is not one for those who are easily offended and blame mental illness as a result of media. Those without thick skin should steer clear. Entertainment media should not be held responsible for the actions that people may take, and though this may be jarringly influential, behavior cannot be blamed on this piece of cinema. Yes, this film stretches to the extremities of off-colored darkness for shock value and shock value alone. What makes Joker so truly harsh is the bothersome material used, not to encourage us that we should replicate what we see on-screen.
As much as the brutality is used to emphasize a greater point, it does become overwhelming when oversaturated enough to submerge the screen in gunfire. To hammer home the use of terror as a coping mechanism can be done in a certain way, but a barrage of bloodshed draws from the theatrics of it all. Homicide, ironically, should stray from being overkill.
The central protagonist is featured in almost every single scene of the movie as an intimate experience with the failed comedian is shared. This too-close-for-comfort camerawork acquaints us with a troubled headspace that just wants to be okay. That desperation for sanity is diminished over time as there is no refuge to be found within sanity, at least, what scraps are left of it.
The polysemous identity of Joker and Fleck is severed on a divide where the two become interchangeable, as what seems to be an origin story becomes a nightmarish orchestration of terror as Fleck’s stability plummets. Phoenix falls nothing short of captivating in his harrowing performance as one of the most recognizable, most disturbed villains.
Verdict: 8/10 – Joker is a devastatingly bold, brashly aggressive, truly haunting homage to the clown prince of crime. It stands proud as one of the most troubling, worrisome and delightfully distressing pieces of comic book cinema. Send in… the clown.