Runs Fri., May 3–Thurs., May 9 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 105 minutes.
There are interesting movie sociopaths, and there are the ones whose misbehavior is just plain dull. I’m not talking about serial killers who paint the walls with blood. If you’re going to make a film about a petty grifter, he’d better have some charisma, because we go to the movies to get fooled along with his victims. Our being duped is part of the transaction.
In his second film (after the little-seen Afterschool), Antonio Campos introduces us to Simon (Brady Corbet) in a long-take dialogue scene that appears to be in his shrink’s office. But no, Simon is borrowing a Paris apartment from a friend of his mom’s. (She’ll later appear, worried, via Skype.) Simon seems like a smart but aimless young dude just out of college, where he claims to have studied neuroscience. But wires have been crossed in his own brain: Simon is stuck on his ex, Michelle, and we hear his constant e-mails in voiceover—both pleading and unsettling.
Soon Simon hooks up with a prostitute (Mati Diop), and the sex scenes between them require some fairly brave, raw performances. In the movie’s most implausible turn, Victoria takes a liking to Simon, and they become a couple. He comes to depend on her completely, though Campos will later complicate that dependency. Simon is nothing if not methodical, and possibly mad. Simon Killer is all about the slow, psychological reveal, and Campos has an admirable command of mood and careful compositions. Between scenes, the Paris skyline dissolves into a red miasma—like dyed cancer cells being examined under a microscope. Simon is a malign specimen, too, but not one worth this slow character study. He’s no Ripley, and the film never feels like more than a low-stakes con.