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Movie review: 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'

Colin Farrell in "The Killing of a Sacred Deer."A24
Published Nov. 8, 2017

Yorgos Lanthimos serves revenge colder than some viewers will accept in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (R), a thriller taking its sweet time doing nasty things.

Colin Farrell stars as Dr. Steven Murphy, a successful cardiologist with all the trimmings: loving wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), two honor roll children and a spacious home. Before we meet them, Steven's vague relationship with teenage Martin (Barry Keoghan, Dunkirk) adds intrigue.

Steven has genuine interest in Martin, whose tics and off-track train of thought hints at severe emotional issues. Steven meets him regularly without Anna's knowledge. Steven buys lunches and gifts Martin with an expensive wristwatch. Is the boy an illegitimate son? A lover? Sexual prey?

The answer comes later, after Martin invites himself to dinner with Steven's family, intriguing daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Then the boy pushes his widowed mother (Alicia Silverstone) on the doctor. Lanthimos keeps viewers off balance with creeping cameras, sonic intrusions and banal dialogue spoken flatly. Tense at times, tedious at others.

It's revealed that Martin's father died during surgery led by Steven. Now the doctor must even the score by killing a member of his family. Otherwise, they'll each become paralyzed then refuse to eat, bleed from their eyes and die. Keoghan's creepy performance sells this unexplained malady; Martin may be simply willing pain.

The premise is as darkly absurd as Lanthimos' The Lobster, also starring Farrell, and equally vague with its logic. While the former movie went so far "out there" that little could be questioned, this one simply perpetuates itself. The third act sustains a fevered level of absurdity and everything prior is stylish, well-acted yet off-putting.Art without any noticeable heart. C+

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