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In the movie, You were never really here.

Joe walks out the back door of an establishment, sees a few dead pigeons, walks for a few steps more and gets attacked by an unknown person in a dark valley.

Joe counter-attacks and beats his assailant down before walking away.

I watched this scene a few times:

  • Joe does not seem to know this assailant.
  • This assailant's face is never shown.

I am wondering why Joe is attacked or what is the purpose of this scene?

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Disclaimer: This is only my own interpretation and not a sourced answer.

When watching that scene, I took it as just a random attempted mugging. Joe was walking down a dark alley at night; in the middle of an urban city, which is generally has risks of being mugged. The mugger simply had the unfortunate chance that his chosen victim was someone like Joe, who is very physically tough.

As for the purpose of the scene, it shows us tough Joe is. Not only in his physical ability to easily defeat the mugger, but also in his attitude that he doesn't even care or act upset at what just happened.

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I cannot find a clip of it, but if my recollection is correct, then on top of what Gendolkari said, the scene also serves some other purposes.

Joe is basically dead inside, he is traumatized and numbed from passed experiences. He just continues to exist without real drive or emotion. Even when he is mugged in that scene, he does not really care. Actually, i kind of recall him provoking the situation.

He is basically a fighter, who only exists to fight, even though he has nothing left to fight for.

What he discovers throughout the story is another purpose, a melody long forgotten. While before he was mostly concerned with himself, if even that. He then takes selfless care of someone else even though there is nothing (which he valued before) to gain from it.

The beginning serves as his rock-bottom start of the journey.

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