The Other Dark Knight 

You Were Never Really Here features a superb performance but is a decidedly dark trip to the cinema.

Joaquin Phoenix is the darkest of dark knights in You Were Never Really Here, opening Friday, April 27 at The Flicks.

Amazon Studios

Joaquin Phoenix is the darkest of dark knights in You Were Never Really Here, opening Friday, April 27 at The Flicks.

Corruption, violence and rescue: It's a disturbingly cruel cycle repeated often and with ever-heightening fervor in each revolution (and there are many) of You Were Never Really Here, a very dark dive starring Joaquin Phoenix. I take a bsvk seat to no one in my admiration for Phoenix, who won the 2017 Cannes Film Festival Best Actor prize for this performance. But here's a clarion warning: You Were Never Really Here is a very heady trip to the cinema.

God only knows how potential clients get a hold of Joe (the character played by Phoenix, whose last name the audience never learns), and God only knows the trouble Joe has seen. He's a combat veteran suffering from increasingly intense spirals of PTSD. He spends his days caring for his mother, who is slowly slipping into extreme dementia, and he spends his nights punishing perpetrators of sexual slavery and rescuing their victims. His weapon of choice is a ball-peen hammer. To that end, Joe is the darkest of dark knights, but a fractured one nonetheless. His character is not unlike Denzel Washington's Bob McCall in The Equalizer (2011) or Robert DeNiro's Travis Bickle, the warped avenger in Taxi Driver (1976).

In the film, Joe is hired by a high-profile politician to rescue the politician's teenage daughter, who has been lured into sex slavery. Along his tortuous path, he unearths cancerous political corruption leading all the way to the Governor's mansion. And as he attempts to rescue the girl, the corruption (and bodies) keep piling up.

In addition to Phoenix's performance, one of his best, the film features a superb script, adapted from Jonathan Ames' 90-page novella by writer/director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), a master of lean visual storytelling.

"I hear you can be brutal," the senator says to Joe.

"I can be," says Joe, in a barely audible hush.

"I want you to hurt them," says the senator.

He has no idea.

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You Were Never Really Here
Rated R · 90 minutes · 2018
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
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