Joker ★½

Todd Phillips, who directed, produced, and co-wrote the film with Scott Silver, clearly understands the plots of these Scorsese movies, but not their souls. Joker isn’t a film about a misanthrope, it is a misanthropic movie. While there are vague notions of political subtext in the citizens of Gotham City — who are denounced as “clowns” by wealthy businessman Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) and then embrace the insult, deplorables-style, and begin wearing clown masks as they protest in the streets — any satire or social commentary is so tame and murky as to be nonexistent. (Joker himself refuses to embrace any sort of political philosophy in his big climactic speech, which again places the blame for all of his actions on the world that mistreated him.) Phillips may have set out to make a modern-day Scorsese picture using the iconography of superhero comics, but what he wound up with feels more like something Travis Bickle would have taken Betsy to, and then sat nodding at the screen in agreement after his date ran for the exit.

Full review at ScreenCrush.