Playing a haunted military veteran who rescues kidnapped girls from sex-traffickers, Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerising in this brutally compelling art-house thriller, adapted from Jonathan Ames’ pulp-noir novella by Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin).
Phoenix’s suicidal loner Joe exudes a bone-weary anguish – we see fleeting flashbacks to an abusive childhood and traumatic war service. But he sets about his business with grim determination and ruthless efficiency. Indeed, we’re already flinching the moment he picks up a ball-peen hammer – his weapon of choice. He rarely uses a gun.
Yet Ramsay actually keeps most of the violence off screen or at the margins of the frame. We witness Joe’s remorseless assault on a brothel for paedophiles, for example, via fleeting moments of black-and-white CCTV footage. Even so, aided by Tom Townend’s arresting cinematography and Jonny Greenwood’s disquietingly dissonant score, Ramsay sustains a mood of intense tension and menace that really gets under your skin.
Certificate 15. Runtime 90 mins. Director Lynne Ramsay
You Were Never Really Here available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from StudioCanal.