Review: Simon Killer

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

This review originally ran as part of our Sundance 2012 coverage.

PLOT: Reeling from a bad breakup, a recent college grad, Simon (Brady Corbet) heads to Paris, where he hooks up with a prostitute (Mati Diop), who takes him in. From there, he gets lost in a sea of sex, drugs, and blackmail- all of which could have deadly consequences.

REVIEW: SIMON KILLER is a tough film to like, much less love. In a way, it’s like a modern-day reworking of LAST TANGO IN PARIS, with director Antonio Campos shooting this is in a very overtly sexual way- making SHAME look tame by comparison. However, like SHAME, it’s not just about sex, with SIMON KILLER, at times, bordering on being a brilliant odyssey into the mind of an eminently unlikable young man, who just may be a sociopath in the making.

Certainly, SIMON KILLER is not for everyone. There were legions of walkouts at the public Sundance screening I attended, and of the many people I’ve spoken to about it in the days since, the majority hated it, with the vocal minority, including me, praised this as possibly being the finest film of the festival.

One thing’s for sure- leading man Brady Corbet emerges in a big way, with this being an extremely brave part for a young man to take. Not only does he bare all repeatedly, and engage in sex scenes that may not necessary be mere simulation, but he also plays a totally unsympathetic asshole- who’s nonetheless fascinating to watch, in the same way Christian Bale was when he played Patrick Bateman in AMERICAN PSYCHO (a friend dubbed this “An American Psycho in Paris”). Corbet’s one of those young actors that consistently chooses good material (going back to MYSTERIOUS SKIN, which he made at 15), and could be another Ryan Gosling in the making.

Director Antonio Campos, whose last film AFTERSCHOOL also sharply divided Sundance audiences, also emerges as a talent to watch, with parts of the film being staggering in their beauty (this is another film that uses DV photography to it’s advantage). Campos is also gifted in the way he integrates music, with the haunting main theme, ‘It Takes a Muscle to Fall in Love’ by Spectral Display working it’s way into the soundtrack in a very organic, striking way. Also worth mentioning in a great, extended set piece set to LCD Soundsytems ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ which has since become the defacto song of the festival.

Sure enough, SIMON KILLER is a film that demands to be taken seriously, and absorbed, rather than watched. I actually kind of hated the film as I was watching it, but it just wouldn’t stop kicking around in my head after I saw it, with it being tough to shake. To me, that’s the mark of a good movie, and that’s exactly what SIMON KILLER is. Heck, it may even be great.

Simon Killer



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.