Sundance 2012: SIMON KILLER Review

     January 31, 2012

simon-killer-movie-image-brady-corbet-slice-01

Antonio Campos‘s Simon Killer is an amusing film both unintentionally and unexpectedly.  The film is rarely meant to be comedic and it rarely enters into so-bad-it’s-good territory.  What makes the film so amusing is how hard Campos is trying to make it exciting.  It is the definition of overcompensating as the aggressive direction, bizarre cinematography, and melodramatic performances try to convince the audience the dull plot and pathetic characters are worth caring about.  There’s even a moderately intriguing idea at the center of the protagonist’s motives, but it’s buried under meaningless sex, violence, and introspection.

Campos opens the movie with a strobe-heavy, abstract lightshow that may cause seizures (that’s not an exaggeration; at Sundance screenings there were warnings about the strobe effect).  We then meet Simon (Brady Corbet) who has gone to Paris after he broke-up with his girlfriend when he discovered she had been cheating on him.  Simon finds his way to a brothel and takes up with a prostitute, Victoria (Mati Diop).  He then slowly pulls her into his personal drama by paying for out-call visits and then manipulating her into having sex for free.  The two then try to rake in the profits by blackmailing her clients, but this is a cursory plotline that provides the plot with the barest amount of momentum.  Simon Killer is about a sad, average guy who has a lot of sex with a prostitute.

simon-killer-movie-image-brady-corbet-02

The movie strongly implies that Simon wasn’t quite right in the head even when he was still together with his girlfriend, but her post-break-up e-mail responses to him are always cordial and along the lines of “We need some time apart and you shouldn’t contact me,” not “Stop trying to talk to me, you freaking psychopath.”  With a heavy heart, a mopey cheapskate tries to find love with someone he has to pay, and then the movie gets slightly clever by having their blackmail scheme work as a way for Simon to get back at cheating guys like the one who slept with his girlfriend.  That’s about as deep as the movie goes and then it’s back to Simon having more prostitute sex and incompetently doing everything else.

Campos directs as if Simon Killer was a far more interesting movie.  For example, he just doesn’t want to show sex.  He wants to show sex from the mid-thigh on down.  Campos isn’t against showing genitals, but his framing has them hanging over the frame as if to show how sex dominates everything.  It would be a subtle idea if every other scene wasn’t people having sex.  When Simon isn’t plowing Victoria, the camera stalks behind him and his loud music pounds through his headphones until everything cuts off and we’re in a new, non-stalker shot.  It adds intensity to a guy walking around and thinking about stuff.  Sure, Simon’s got anger bubbling inside of him, but so what?  Follow someone else around Paris and I’m sure you’ve got the same thing.  Brady Corbet’s performance is supposed to expose the core of a complex man, but like the direction, it’s delving into the shallow waters.

simon-killer-movie-image-brady-corbet-01

Simon Killer isn’t a movie where we’re going inside the protagonist’s mind to see the world as he views it.  There’s nothing energetic about shameful and pathetic behavior, and the movie’s non-abrasive scenes like downtime before Campos can shove abstract visuals into our eyes and pulsating music down our ears.  Even Simon doesn’t think he’s interesting since he always excuses the dullness of his college dissertation.  The story and characters are a chore, but Campos makes Simon Killer ironically adorable in the same way as someone who decks out and details his Ford Taurus.

Rating: C-

For all of our coverage of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, click here.  Also, here are links to all of my other Sundance reviews:

Around The Web

Latest News

In Defense of TOMORROWLAND

We need more movies like Brad Bird's ode to optimism.

IT Remake Not Dead Yet; Moving Back To Warner Bros.

The Stephen King adaptation is moving back to its original studio and original setting, but not with Cary Fukunaga.

WONDER WOMAN: Chris Pine in Talks to Play Love Interest Steve Trevor

Gal Gadot starts in the upcoming superhero film.

Jason Reitman to Write and Direct BEEKLE for DreamWorks Animation

After a string of box office misfires, DreamWorks Animation and the 'Juno' filmmaker will join forces in what looks to be a new creative direction.

TRANSFORMERS Prequel in the Works; Michael Bay Returning for T5?

The next 'Transformers' movie could be yet another sequel directed by Bay.

Filming Begins on Doug Liman’s MENA, Starring Tom Cruise; Full Cast Revealed

Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, and more join the 'Edge of Tomorrow' reunion pic.

DOCTOR STRANGE: Tilda Swinton in Talks to Play the Ancient One

While they're at it, Marvel should probably just let Swinton play *all* the roles in 'Doctor Strange'.

COP CAR Trailer: Don’t Mess with Creepy Kevin Bacon

Two young boys take Kevin Bacon's cop car out for a joy ride, then soon realize it was a very, very bad idea.

HARRY POTTER Spinoff Shortlist Includes Kate Upton, Saoirse Ronan

Spoiler Alert: Everyone wants to be in 'Harry Potter'.

PAWN SACRIFICE Trailer: Tobey Maguire Is Chess Prodigy Bobby Fischer

The docudrama hits select theaters on September 18th.

Page 1 of 3,96712345...102030...Last »