His new client is Albert Votto, a New York senator. According to an anonymous text, his underage daughter Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov) has been kidnapped over the weekend and forced to work in an elegant Manhattan brothel.
When Joe sets out to do his demolition work, he finds himself in a more destructive conflict than he has ever fought, facing ruthless power and trying to humanize his own inner demons. It’s hard not to see this sociopath as a would-be savior. In a tragic, corrupt world, he’s one of the good ones.
The film is filled with paradoxical, ambiguous acts and darkness so close to its characters that it threatens to envelop them. Even the asides — the “Do Not Disturb” tag on a hotel door — carry insidious irony.
There is good plotting, too, more hinted at than underlined, and surreal twists that become plausible once we catch our breath.
It’s not just a great film, it’s essential. This is the sort of cinema whose disturbing power makes it both infamous and unforgettable.
“You Were Never Really Here”
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts and John Doman. Directed by Lynne Ramsay.
Rated R for strong violence, disturbing and grisly images, coarse language and brief nudity. Check listings at theaters. 1 hour, 29 minutes.
Bottom line: An essential film that's full of genius moments