December 27, 2019  (Web Review)

Joker

Warner, 122 min., R, DVD: $28.98, Blu-ray: $35.99, Jan. 7

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

This is the nihilistic origin story of DC Comics’ nasty, maniacal uber-villain and Batman’s arch nemesis, known as the Joker. Saddled with a long familial history of insanity, which he shares with his deranged mother (Frances Conroy) who tried to burn him alive as a child, the troubled, tortured Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix in a Golden Globe winning performance)—plagued with uncontrollable laughter—has endured years of social isolation and negligence, falling through the cracks in the mental health system. Living in a grubby Gotham City apartment, Arthur’s bond with his mother is to avidly watch nightly TV talk-show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). As an aspiring standup comedian, known as The Joker, clown-faced Arthur lands an appearance on Franklin’s show, bringing a gun onstage. While Hollywood has a long history with raging psychopaths, anti-heroes, and vigilante violence, real-life mass shootings have become more and more prevalent, nearly all perpetrated by angry young men filled with repressed rage. “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” the Joker asks rhetorically. Directed by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the uneven character study, the film features sickening blood-spewing violence. Scoring multiple Golden Globe nominations (including for Best Picture) and likely to receive Oscar recognition, Joker—which split critics—is a strong optional purchase. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include behind-the-scenes featurettes. Bottom line: a small extras package for this controversial supervillain flick.] (S. Granger)