Lynne Ramsay’s haunting adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novel feels like an impressionist gloss on Logan. It takes a full 20 minutes for it to be clear whether the brutal Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a hero or a villain, and indeed there’s a thin line where his work is concerned, serving as a freelance investigator tracking down missing and exploited children. His latest case involves applying his trusty ball peen hammer to those prostituting the runaway daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov) of a New York state senator, but it quickly turns more dangerous than Joe expected. Phoenix delivers a stellar internalized performance as a ronin trying to save his soul by saving others. But the real star here is Ramsay’s direction, bringing intensity and efficiency to a story where an assault on a brothel for underage girls plays out through grainy security camera footage, and Joe’s lifetime of trauma emerges in brief, jarring flashbacks that tell you everything you need to know about the scars on his body and his psyche. It’s a tale of monsters created by their past, trying to focus their monstrous wrath on those who have it coming.
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Producer: Rosa Attab, Pascal Caucheteux, James Wilson and Lynne Ramsay
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts, Dante Pereira-Olson, Leigh Dunham and Jason Babinsky