It may not be a horror movie, but "You Were Never Really Here" plays like a cold sweat nightmare a monster is having. Joaquin Phoenix is sensational as Joe, a traumatized Marine veteran turned hired gun, who rescues girls from sex trafficking. 

He's a cold, blunt instrument of a man, much like his weapon of choice: a ball-peen hammer. Probably the only thing keeping him going - his last grasp on his humanity - caring for his ailing mother.

When he gets hired by a powerful state senator to find his daughter, Joe  is given specific instructions: make them suffer.

And down the rabbit hole we go into a series of twists and turns I won't reveal. But the story is really secondary, anyway. Writer and Director Lynne Ramsay is more interested in taking us into the mind of a dangerous, unpredictable man. Leave it to a woman to look for something deeper in a typical male revenge fantasy. 

The filmmaking technique is sublime - especially the editing. It's elevated further by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, whose twisted, wrenching score feels like the music that must be in Joe's head.

"You Were Never Really Here" is a brutally violent, visceral viewing experience - one of the year's best movies.

EPPLER RATING: * * * * 1/2


* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful  - The worst, an insult to movies