Paris: The city of love, hope, happiness, and depressed hookers.
After his girlfriend breaks up with him, recent college-grad Simon (Brady Corbet) heads out to Paris, France where he looks to re-discover himself, burn some money, and also make sense of what he wants to do with his life. One night of exploration leads him to a prostitute (Mati Diop), who he gains a connection with, even if it does seem a bit more like he’s the one pushing it moreso than her, but she has no problem with him one bit because he pays good money and is an easy lay. However, eventually they begin to actually in fact “like” one another and decide to move on, do some drugs, have plenty of sex, drink a lot, and even dip their pens in some black-mail here and there. Although this may all seem like good times and all, there’s something strange about Simon’s psyche that comes out every once and awhile, but becomes more and more violent as his relationship between he and the prostitute gets more serious.
With just two films under his belt, writer/director Antonio Campos definitely doesn’t make films so that they can be “enjoyed”. Instead, it seems like he really wants to drown people further and further into his dark and voyeuristic mind, no matter how unpleasant it may be. Afterschool was his debut, and if you haven’t seen it by now, I definitely recommend you do so. That movie itself is very good, discusses a lot of key-points about society, and takes you into this world of private schools, and makes you realize just how much like hell they seem to be if you aren’t the coolest kid around.
It also can be used as a tool for you to figure out whether or not you want to watch this, because they’re definitely the same type of flick, just different stories (obviously). Both are very freakin’ dark, sometimes bordering on bleak, and feature main characters that you don’t like, but can’t necessarily “hate” either. You just sort of sit there and watch as their journey goes on, whether or not you support every decision they do, or don’t make. However, this isn’t going to be one of those distasteful “comparison reviews”; I’m going to stick with this one, I promise.
So anyway, on with Simon Killer.
Like I was saying about Campos, the dude has a pretty harsh-eye for the world around him, but you can’t say it isn’t realistic either. He sees the world for all of the bad and unfair, while he also sees it for some bits and pieces of happiness as well; but even then though you still get the feeling that he’s looking down on these characters for living such small, scummy lives. That approach in most films would absolutely kill any sense of interest the material would have had going for itself, but here, it only intrigues you more. Campos definitely doesn’t seem to really care much for the glamorized, beautiful glimpse of Paris that we seem to get in movies, and is more concerned with the rats that live and roam underneath the city, trying to make ends meet by any way they can. In a way, you could say that Campos is as interested with their lives as we are, but yet, you can also tell that he creates some distance as well.
That’s why this flick definitely isn’t the easiest pill to swallow, and will most likely have you disgusted at many times. Campos definitely shoots this flick as beautifully gritty as he can, but the material itself can just be so downright depressing, that you question what Campos intentions with this story really are. Does he want to make a story about a relationship between a prostitute and a young boy? Does he want to make a comment on the post-grad existence? Or, does he simply want to give us a glimpse inside the mind, or inner-workings of a mysterious sociopath? You never quite know where Campos is going to go with this story, and that definitely leads one to wonder whether or not he cares about it, or just wants to show-off his many stylish scenes, even if the style does work well.
But there is one thing definitely assured, Campos trusts the hell out of his cast to carry this story when he seems to be drifting-off. Most importantly, Brady Corbet who, at 25, seems like he’s blossoming into a very talented young actor. One feature you’ll notice right away about Corbet is his boyish look and charm, yet, he has the facial-hair to sort of hide behind, as if to give you the idea that he’s more dirty than he really looks. This works well for the character of Simon, because it allows Corbet to really flesh-out this character for all that he is, which is saying something since we never get to liking him. He always seems like his mind is in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and doesn’t show any signs of changing, no matter how hurt or damaged the people are around him. However, you can’t stop watching Corbet because the guy goes for it all with this performance, shedding off all of his clothes when necessary, believably performing sex scenes that don’t seem anywhere near simulated, and looking as if he’s about to lose his cool and splatter his blood all over the wall at any moment. Corbet’s a presence to watch, not just in this movie, but in the future as well. Take notice, peeps.
While she doesn’t get as meaty of a role as Corbet, Mati Diop still makes a nice first-impression as the hooker, with somewhat of a heart of gold, and gives us a sad look inside the life of someone who truly is broken and battered on the inside, and may actually need someone like Simon to bring her back up from the ashes of society. Together, they surprisingly create a nice dynamic: He’s immature and spoiled, whereas she’s older, wiser, and a lot more down-to-Earth with thinking of what one person should have in life, and shouldn’t have. They’re believable together, and you even start to feel bad once they predictably begin to fall-apart, all due to Simon’s true-self coming out of course.
Consensus: Definitely not going to be everybody’s cup-of-tea, Simon Killer excels with giving us a harsh, yet compelling look inside the mind and life of a sociopath, well-played by Brady Corbet, yet, it doesn’t quite know where it wants to go at all times and loses its many, many ideas as a result.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!