The Killer Inside Me
Casey Affleck delivers a chilling performance in Michael Winterbottom’s film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s 1950s American noir crime novel.
The film tracks the unremarkable existence of Lou Ford (Affleck) a deputy sheriff in a small and insular Texas town. His character seems a charming, respectable and incredibly one-dimensional pillar of a community that both bores and sustains him. He has a local childhood sweetheart (Kate Hudson) and is renouned for his selfless behaviour throughout the town. But when sent to drive out Joyce Lakeland a local prostitute (Jessica Alba) who has become involved with the son of local construction magnate Chester Conway (Ned Beatty), Ford begins an ill-fated relationship with Joyce that spikes the violent narrative that unfolds.
Before I delve too much into the film itself, let's get the controversy bit out of the way. Much debate has followed this adaptation, not because of its faithfulness to the source material, but because of two harrowing scenes of violence that have been branded unecessarily drawn out and misogynistic. Although paradoxically those scenes have generated all the publicity needed to make a fairly unremarkable film something more than the sum of its parts.
Back to the film and the thing that grabs you almost immediately is the fact the protagonist and narrator in question is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is and the audience aren’t the only ones in on the joke…. so to speak. From the start of his descent into a cruel sado-masachistic and murderous decline, we are given the steer that all of the characters around him believe or at least suspect that Ford isn’t what he seems. The small town community seems to actually both allow and unwittingly support his duality, yet it is also (thankfully) what finally destroys him.
If you were expecting a stylish and intelligent serial-killer style drama, then this isn’t another American Psycho. That aside Affleck is highly affective as the ordinary man, his portrayal although sometimes mumbling and wide eyed is all the more shocking when with little visible emotion of inner-conflict his dormant evil claws it’s way to the fore.
Winterbottom employs a very limited series of Freud by numbers style flash backs which only really scratch at rather than actually justify Ford's actions. These include the implication that all the women in his life are chosen due to their similarity to his mother and the darkness inside stems from his relationship with her (I say mother other reviews seem to think it was his dad’s mistress, which is confusing in itself). It is worth noting though that Alba manages to shed her ‘action hottie’ persona with a measured performance of great poise and emotional depth, her limited screen time is also pleasingly extended through flash backs that show the intensity of her relationship with Ford. This intensity also feeds into Ford’s relationship with Amy Stanton (Hudson) as he tries to reconstruct the passionate and sadomasochistic elements of his tryst with Joyce. Hudson also gives a stellar performance as his childhood sweet heart, allowing you to feel her tormented desire for a normal life and her struggle to balance her love for Ford with her growing insight into his fractured psyche.
Despite the above the dark desire subtext never really takes root and despite the flashbacks I found it difficult to fathom where all the rage and frustration comes from. In a way this lack of a tangible explanation is what sets this film apart, as it carries out an failing autopsy on human nature right in front of the viewers eyes.
The two scenes mentioned earlier make for uncomfortable viewing and the pacing of the film is pedestrian with large portions of the movie present in which nothing really happens. You don’t really empathise with the villain of the piece either and you struggle to even care about those that fall victim to his actions, it is almost as if the violence numbs you to what transpires in between and after.
I have so many splinters cutting through my jeans as I am sat totally on the fence about this film. I like Winterbottom, I like the way this film is shot, the acting throughout is faultless, it just feels that the source material the screen play is taken from doesn’t translate that well to film. Maybe the slick glossy action packed crime thrillers of the last twenty years draw the light away from Winterbottom’s plodding and naturalistic approach. I also felt that some of the other peripheral characters got a bum deal here. Union leader (Elias Koteas) who implausibly has the biggest influence on Ford’s decisions, and county attorney (Simon Baker) who is there to bring him to justice get drowned by the weakness of the narrative and the violence that prematurely renders everything after it unmemorable and uninteresting.
As something refreshingly different that creates more questions than it answers, ‘The Killer Inside Me’ succeeds by being very well acted, with a plot that although muddied at times and overly drawn out still has enough of interest to make this a film worth watching. I just can’t help but feel that there are too many interesting plot threads that never really develop or barely have any reason for being there in the first place; and that like Antichrist, two scenes dominate an unremarkable narrative so heavily that you have little stomach for the rest of the film.
Showing times for Killer Inside Me at the Baker Street Everyman Cinema
Monday 14th June 15:30 20:45
Tuesday 15th June 15:30 20:45
Click here for more information and booking
Also showing at Everyman Screen on the Green Islington - Ben stiller stars in Greenberg:
Greenberg brings actor Ben Stiller together with Academy Award-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale") to tell the funny and moving tale of Roger Greenberg.
Thursday 17th June 18:10 20:45
Friday 18th June 16:00
Saturday 19th June 13:15 15:45 21:00
Sunday 20th June 16:00
Monday 21st June 20:50
Tuesday 22nd June 20:50
Thursday 24th June 20:5
Click here for more information and booking