Director: Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, Code 46, Tristram Shandy, A Mighty Heart)
Novel: Jim Thompson
Screenplay: John Curran
Producers: Andrew Eaton, Chris Hanley, Bradford L. Schlei
Starring: Casey Affleck , Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas, Tom Bower, Simon Baker, Bill Pullman
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 109 min
Walking out of the theater feeling shocked rather than wowed or moved sort of equals failure from my point of view but with Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, there seem to be enough strangely goofy notes hit along the way that something more interesting is percolating underneath the blistering brutality of what seems to be a pretty typical noir-type fim.
Not for greed or money or jealousy, but through a years-long (perhaps misplaced) grudge, Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) foils a plan of blackmail money to be paid off with a devastating and surprisingly brutal attack against those that appear close to him. As the murder investigation gets stickier, Ford resorts to indifferently (and maniacally) killing over and over again to cover his tracks.
Casey Affleck shines well here as the quite disturbed, psycho killer Lou Ford. He’s sort of the 1940’s version of Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) if you will. His calm, nice guy demeanor with a broader measure of an egotistical and sinister presence lying dormant underneath, seems to be what Mr. Affleck excels at (see his turn as another Mr. Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James). The instant you meet this fellow it’s obvious you wouldn’t ever want to turn your back on the guy or say the wrong thing to him. There’s a peculiarity that Affleck brings to the character that is so nuanced I almost wonder if it’s an accident. It’s perfect.
The brutality here is what may very well catch people off their wares. It is not only hard to stomach as the beatings are devastatingly realistic but also reared against defenseless women. Beyond the unscrupulous nature of the murders, they are also creepily displayed as crimes of misplaced passion. Again, Affleck is what makes it work here – along with the screenwriter of course. Not since Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible have I seen something so difficult to absorb.
But beyond the one nice performance and the touches of noir beauty, there isn’t a whole lot here to really take in. Other than Affleck there’s no one here to really take note of. I had hope Alba would finally break out and do something nice but alas, she’s only there to be used (sometimes heavy handedly) as eye candy (which, to be fair, she does really really well *smirk*). Hudson does what she can with what she’s given but hardly will attract much attention for this role (God, I miss Penny Lane). Everyone else are simply playing caricatures. Which is fine for this kind of film but still I don’t think it’s unfair to ask for something more in this day in age (especially from Winterbottom).
On top of all of this the story is about as straight forward as it gets and there’s nothing new that hasn’t been showcased hundreds of times before. The blisteringly slow burn of the movie is paced perfectly but just like the lonely desert town the story takes place within, you can see just about everything coming at you from miles away.
The one aspect that separates this movie from being about as cliché as one can get is the odd choices in musical queues from time to time. Usually it’s typical, sort of atmospheric music or sometimes an on-set musical device (such as a radio or piano) that adds tension or doom to a scene. But on at least two occasions the mood mysteriously lightens up immediately after a particularly harsh scene with a wishy-washy care free score. At one point I actually had flash-backs from an old Benny Hill episode. Is Winterbottom trying to pull the rug out from underneath us just to throw us for a loop or is he simply wanting to give us a breather from something terribly hard to stomach in the previous scene? I’m torn on whether or not I like the melancholy feel to this aspect of the movie. Maybe it is supposed to be sort of mimicking the inner workings of Ford’s mind or does the movie simply not really know what it wants to be? Either way, for me on a gut level it simply feels out of place and pulls me from what I’m supposed to be feeling. Dramatically and unironically changing moods has never worked for me and that criticism holds for this movie as well.