Cast: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Michael Abiteboul, Solo, Constance Rousseau
Running time: 105mins
The lowdown: Antonio Campos follows his disturbing debut Afterschool with a second movie centered on a disturbed male teen and the women in his life. Traces of Jim Thompson and Michael Haneke seep into the story of the disconcertingly named angry young man, fleeing to Paris to escape a bad break-up and his encounters with a streetwise prostitute. But, is the hurt-faced lad as vulnerable as he appears? Campos employs a slow escalation of dread to fuel a disturbing, hypnotic study of a cracked American in Paris.
The full verdict: Brady Corbet played one of the two boyish killers in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games remake and was memorably intimidating as a cult lieutenant in Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene.
In Simon Killer he showcases his range of talents, appearing in almost every scene with a hungry, stunning, vanity free performance.
Fragmented, disjointed moments introduce the disaffected Simon, wandering Paris, seeking joyless solace in internet porn and obsessively emailing his ex-girlfriend.
Wandering into a hostess bar, he meets Victoria (Diop) and begins a relationship based on her need for normalcy after a harrowing experience and his need to…?
Writer/director Campos (working from a story fleshed out with the two leads) keeps the audience guessing how much of the film’s title describes the lead character. Snippets of information hint at a dark past, we are privy to his manipulative lies, and a blackmail scam involving Victoria’s clients puts her in direct danger.
Icy blues and vice district reds, camerawork that hides as much as it reveals and frank, uncomfortable sex scenes further build the tension.
Diop breaks the heart as her Victoria falls for the mysterious American and Michael Abiteboul also impresses as a dangerous john Simon tries to muscle.
But, whether using charm as a weapon on a pretty young Parisian (Rousseau) or displaying flashes of anger that suggest a growing violence, the film belongs to Corbet.
And the enigmatic ending is perfect for a post-movie pub debate.