Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz
Release Date: January 7, 2020
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
Forever alone in a crowd, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) longs for any light to shine on him. Trying his hand as a stand-up comic, he finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty and, ultimately, betrayal, Arthur makes one bad decision after another that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events.
Please Note: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own.
In a bold new take on one of the most recognizable villains in comic book history, ‘Joker’ tells the story of loner and hopeful comedian Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a generally easygoing albeit strange man who lives with his mother and dreams of becoming something greater. But when Arthur finally becomes tired of serving as everyone’s punching bag, and one bad situation leads to another, his sanity starts to slowly slip and he finds himself spiraling down a path of violence, anger and twisted humor, finally determined to make the world notice and appreciate him, one way or another.
Directed by Todd Phillips (War Dogs, The Hangover) from a screenplay that he additionally co-wrote with Scott Silver (The Fighter, The Finest Hours), Phillips does a phenomenal job at the helm of ‘Joker’ guiding along the tension, emotion and insanity with a perfect pacing and style. The film also owes plenty of credit to the talented individuals that comprise the cast which includes Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Zazie Beetz (TV’s Atlanta), Frances Conroy (TV’s American Horror Story), Brett Cullen (TV’s True Detective) and more, the majority offering solid, if not noteworthy performances in each of their respective roles overall; although Phoenix still manages to constantly steal the show with his powerful and unforgettable performance in the lead.
‘Joker’ takes a new and unexpected approach at exploring the origins of the legendary DC Comics villain, allowing the character a chance to truly shine on the big screen without having to share the spotlight. Yet make no mistake, while the film is based upon general ideas and a key character within the DC/Batman mythology, this is not your average comic book film, instead serving as a dark character study that accompanies a troubled and struggling man who is mistreated and ignored by society left and right and as one bad moment consistently leads to another, he retreats into himself and emerges as a new man of sorts; one who isn’t afraid to take the unpleasant and violent steps he feels are necessary. ‘Joker’ does an impressive job of making you feel for and understand the struggles of this generally awkward yet decent man and even as he goes deeper off the edge and his actions become increasingly more questionable, there’s always a relatability to him which is no easy task when tackling a story and character such as this. I would strongly encourage DC fans along with fans of Joaquin Phoenix and anyone who appreciates a moving, tense and fascinating crime story to try and go out of your way to give ‘Joker’ a chance whenever convenient. Even those that may be on the fence should find a great deal to enjoy and appreciate within this passionate and unapologetic story. It’s a brilliant take on the character that works remarkably well largely courtesy of Joaquin Phoenix’s unforgettable performance and at the absolute least it should prove well worth a couple hours of your time and the price of a rental.
Overall, ‘Joker’ is a magnificent and unexpected surprise of a film. A dark, unsettling and strangely rewarding piece of cinema that takes a familiar character we all know and dares to do something powerful, unique and unexpected with it; and most surprising of all is just how remarkably well it actually works. ‘Joker’ is definitely highly recommended, especially for fans of DC, Joaquin Phoenix and smart, well-crafted crime dramas about the darker sides of people and the generally grimy criminal worlds they populate. Even those of you who may still be on the fence about ‘Joker’ are likely to only find yourself pleasantly surprised when giving it a fair shot. The careful guidance of director Todd Phillips combined with Joaquin Phoenix’s outstanding performance alone should be enough to easily hold your attention throughout its duration.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Joker’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks outstanding as a whole and provides a smooth, sharp and beautifully detailed presentation from start to finish with no noticeable faults or issues of any kind to be uncovered along the way. It holds up perfectly even during the various darkly lit and fast moving moments, never allowing anything occurring onscreen to become negatively affected, let alone rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a magnificent high definition video presentation from Warner Bros that should easily thrill fans of the film and first time viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio presentation. This multichannel soundtrack is equally marvelous, delivering a crisp, clean and quite active audio presentation throughout. It consistently embraces all seven channels at its disposal in order to send the perfectly fitting score, along with some gunshots, crowd activity and more throughout the various speakers whenever appropriate, and never causing any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. Overall, this is a fantastic Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) soundtrack that more than delivers in every way necessary and makes a splendid compliment to the overall viewing experience.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Joker’ doesn’t include a great deal in the way of extras, although it does feature a few notable bonus goodies. Included on the release is the Behind the Scenes Featurette ‘Joker: Vision and Fury’ (running approximately 22 minutes in length) which features interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more. Also included is the brief behind the scenes video ‘Becoming Joker’ which shows Phoenix’s character transformation, plus some fun outtakes and insight in ‘Please Welcome … Joker!’ (running approximately 3 minutes in length). ‘Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos’ (approximately 3 minutes) is also included which is comprised of various still images from the film.