Detective Comics first introduced Batman’s arch-nemesis in 1951. Disfigured from chemicals, the notorious villain adopted the name “Joker” from the playing card he came to resemble. Fast forward 68 years and we now have a new Joker origin story that will not only redefine how we view comic book origin stories, but how we look at comic book movies altogether.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a “mentally ill” aspiring stand-up comedian and part-time clown who lives with his mother in the bleak Gotham City. Fleck has a rare neurological disorder that causes unintentional bouts of laughter. After constant torment and bullying by a gang of local street thugs, Arthur finally loses his day job and his downward spiral begins. As one character aptly states, “All Arthur needs is that one push.” Once he gets that “one push,” the consequences are catastrophic.

Director Todd Phillips

On its surface, Joker is the origin story of one of the greatest cinematic comic book villains of all time. But once you start to peel away the layers, the film morphs into an uncomfortable and unnerving psychological character study about a loner—that much like current times—the world couldn’t care to notice and has left behind. We all know an Arthur Fleck.

Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerizing as Arthur Fleck/Joker. He doesn’t just pull the curtain back to give the viewer a sneak peek at a mind going violently insane, instead he rips the curtains off the wall… and it’s absolutely terrifying. Director Todd Phillips gives Joker a gritty 1970s look that often resembles Martin Scorsese’s classics: Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. This glimpse into the early life of “The Clown Prince of Crime” isn’t just brilliant, it’s heartbreaking.

COMING SOON To Theaters:

By Scott Peterson @cinesportstalk