FEARNET Movie Review: 'Simon Killer'



simon killerOn the level of a simple plot synopsis, the odd new psychological thriller Simon Killer probably sounds like a lot of movies you've seen before: an aimless young man wanders through Paris without much in the way of purpose or direction -- but slowly becomes embroiled in a low-key noir-style story about blackmail, prostitution, betrayal, and (of course) a murder or two. Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective) Antonio Campos' laconic but icily compelling new movie is more of a suspenseful character study with aspirations of legitimate artistry than it is yet another simplistic and low-budget horror tale about a man who mistreats women.
Much of the credit for how well the film works -- despite a slow and methodical pace that some might find off-putting -- lies in the performance of lead actor / co-writer Brady Corbet. Right from the opening scenes (hell, straight from the title) we know that our main character Simon is both a protagonist and the antagonist, but Campos and his three editors are in no big hurry to divulge any secrets. We know that Simon is coming out of a long-term relationship, that he is a lonely young American in Paris, and that despite his charming exterior, he definitely has some cracks tucked beneath the surface.
Beyond that, it's up to a patient viewer to settle in and see if Simon's journey through Paris (he befriends a tough prostitute as well as a beautiful college student; Simon has his problems but they're not in meeting ladies) is worthy of Campos' languid and rather meandering presentation. Given that I found myself invested in Simon's ambiguous plight from the opening scenes, the film's frequent diversions into circuitous conversations and Paris night clubs were sort of fascinating.
Mr. Corbet is the key to the film's success, for the most part, but both of the leading ladies (Constance Rousseau and Lisa Salet) provide excellent work as well. Each woman represents a distinctly unique path for Simon to explore, and both actresses provide a fascinating counterpoint to Simon's inscrutable main character.

For all its slow-burn weirdness and (sure) art-school floridity, an attentive viewer will accept Simon Killer as a simple but strange character piece about a young man with some serious problems relating to women. The film has a foundation of natural suspense, is bolstered by several excellent performances, and (bonus!) features some rather excellent music throughout. If you don't mind your indie thrillers a bit odd, intelligent, and slyly mysterious, odds are you'll find something interesting in this one.