Reviews: Joker and Gemini Man

At the movies: Joaquin Phoenix shines as Arthur Fleck in crime-thriller Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Photo: Supplied.
At the movies: Joaquin Phoenix shines as Arthur Fleck in crime-thriller Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Photo: Supplied.

Todd Phillips (known primarily for Old School and the Hangover trilogy) has shifted away from comedy to direct an unrelenting crime-drama.

In Joker, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) spends his days as a sad clown in 1980s Gotham City.

Each night, he takes care of his delusional mother - Penny (Frances Conroy) - in their crummy apartment.

The creepy, unstable Arthur is also obsessed with charismatic talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert de Niro).

As the city descends into chaos, Arthur's world begins tumbling down around him.

Much has been said about Joker prior to its release, with many questioning Phillips and Warner Brothers' intentions.

The end result is a fairly straightforward crime-drama with a couple of bright spots here and there.

Phoenix delivers an Oscar-calibre performance in yet another slimy, over-the-top role.

Phillips brings up issues of mental health, wealth inequality, and isolation without saying anything new.

The movie can't decide whether to idealise or shun its titular character.

Like with his previous effort War Dogs, Phillips borrows wholeheartedly from Martin Scorsese.

Joker's characters, plot, and visuals are eerily reminiscent to those of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.

Composer Hildur Gunadttir and cinematographer Lawrence Sher succeed in bringing a gritty, grimy version of Gotham to life.

Thanks largely to Phoenix, Joker is slightly better than most DC Comics adaptations.

Gemini Man

After calling it quits, top-level assassin Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is hunted down by the US Government.

Escaping relatively unscathed, Brogan, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Baron (Benedict Wong) set out to get revenge on the snivelling Clay (Clive Owen).

Gemini Man languished in development hell, before being handed off to acclaimed filmmaker Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi).

The director excels in using motion capture and de-ageing technology to create Brogan's clone.

In many scenes, Smith's younger-looking doppelganger looks impeccable.

Lee also crafts several sublime action sequences.

Once set-piece, involving a motorbike chase between older and younger Brogan, is almost worth the price of admission.

Unfortunately, however, Gemini Man continues Smith's run of sub-par blockbusters.

The movie squanders its intriguing premise with a run-of-the-mill story and one-note characters.

Instead of delving into cloning, genetic engineering, and the military-industrial complex, Lee delivers a dull, uninspired final product.

Hopefully, both Lee and Smith will go back to the drawing board.