Naked ★★★★½

I tend to really go for these grimy character studies of either morally ambiguous or evil men like Good Time, Taxi Driver, You Were Never Really Here, and others. Naked is perhaps the evilest but it's also one of the smartest and well crafted. Our introduction to the protagonist Johnny is a nighttime rape in a dark alley, it's hard to watch but effective in its tone setting for what follows. He seeks refuge after his crime in London with an old flame but we learn he rarely stays in one place for long, instead setting out on a mostly nocturnal odyssey through the city. Johnny is angry and constantly lashing out at the world even as the world seems to constantly give him breaks, in many ways his journey in the film feels like a revenge tour against humanity itself. The kindness shown to him seems to almost feed his anger, he doesn't want the world to be good. And it's not that everything around him is "peachy" as he loves to dryly remark. We cut between his story and an American Psycho-esque serial rapist inflicting even more suffering than Johnny himself, but Johnny can't see that. Finally the world does strike back when a roving youth gang senselessly beats him but this is after so much compassion was shown to him by his old lover, the security guard, a waitress, and a poster paster straight out of Bicycle Thieves. Johnny's inability to see the good in the world, his wounded thrashing (at one point literally), his wry humor, and his philosophical ramblings are compulsively watchable. It's the archetypal car wreck you can't look away from and portrayed brilliantly by David Thewlis. The film has a strange beauty despite the bleak, dirty alleys and washed out colors. The score is omnipresent and as important to the overall experience as anything, it perfectly captures the atmosphere (or maybe creates it) and it's impossible to imagine a different score in its place. This is a film that I feel would reward repeat viewings but not exactly one that encourages them. The rape scenes can feel a little gratuitous and I'm not completely convinced that Sebastian/Jeremy was a meaningful inclusion (especially with him being responsible for so many of those tough scenes) but this is an exceedingly well put together character study that more than covers up its faults.

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