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‘Joker’ review: A horrifying, artful deep dive into a violent maniac’s head

The aim of the Joker has always been to sow chaos and panic in the citizens of Gotham City. In this, Todd Phillips’ origin story seems to have succeeded, given the amount of lip service paid to worries that “Joker” will weaponize volatile viewers. Its final act is, indeed, bracingly over the top, as Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sheds his sad-sack chrysalis and emerges into full-blown Joker mode. It’s horrifying, it’s artful — and it’s hardly alone in its cinematic zest for violence. (Just ask John Rambo, back at the box office a couple weeks ago.) The rest of “Joker” is, in essence, a compelling character study — one whose appeal may be limited to Batman completists, of whom there are certainly quite a few. Le ...