The only thing that makes this slight mystery tolerable is the charm of its rural New England setting, beautifully shot. There’s a baffling mediocrity throughout the rest of the film though, from the flat characters and acting (Shirley MacLain, as cute as she is here, is especially aimless onscreen) to the light, nonsensical plot. I could see this being a passable episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but it makes for a pretty boring feature, far below Hitch’s typical standard.
A brutal, ethereal piece of magic. So much of Lynne Ramsay’s trim genre exercise comes at you sideways and opens up spaces you never expected to experience inside a story like this. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joe is a battered slab of a man, pieced together out of muscle and trauma, kept alive in spite of himself by a son’s love for his mother and a purposed specialty in rescuing captive girls. It’s such a fantastic performance, and a completely arresting auteurist vision of a broken would-be savior’s personal journey through a noirish hell.