Review: The Killer Inside Me
PLOT: On the surface, Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), a deputy sheriff in a sleepy West Texas town, seems like a swell guy. He`s friendly with the locals, soft-spoken, intelligent, but alas, that`s just the surface, as Ford harbors a dark secret. Turns out, Ford`s completely psychotic, and prone to bursts of uncontrollable violence.
REVIEW: THE KILLER INSIDE ME is going to be one hell of a polarizing film. That was painfully evident at the Sundance gala for this, as during the Q & A, one audience member chastised director Michael Winterbottom, and the Sundance committee for allowing this film to be seen. As far as I`m concerned, that audience member totally missed the point of what`s easily the best film I've seen at the Sundance Film Festival so far.
Michael Winterbottom`s crafted a film which, I think, might be his masterpiece, out of a great old piece of pulp fiction written by the hardest-boiled writer to ever put pen to paper, Jim Thompson (other Thompson adaptation include a previous version of KILLER INSIDE ME, as well as THE GRIFTERS, and THE GETAWAY). This is a tough tale, with Affleck playing one of the scariest psychopaths I've even seen, mostly due to the fact that he`s so damn likable.
You see, Ford doesn't believe he`s a bad guy, but at the same time, he`s smart enough to know that what he`s doing is bad. Yet, his sadistic streak runs so deep that at times, he becomes a monster on the same level as Patrick Bateman from AMERICAN PSYCHO or Hannibal Lecter. This is perfectly illustrated in a scene which had people storming out of the theatre, where Affleck viciously pummels Jessica Alba, in painfully gruesome detail. Afterward, people were complaining about how repulsive it was, but they're missing the point, as it`s SUPPOSED to be repulsive. Winterbottom`s not making torture porn like the HOSTEL films, and this is a serious look at the mind of a psychotic, and is NOT meant to titillate.
In the lead, Casey Affleck is nothing short of extraordinary. This fully delivers on the one-two punch he had in 2007 with THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, and GONE, BABY, GONE. This is an extremely challenging role, as in the hands of any other actor, it would have been impossible to follow the character around for two hours. With Affleck, you really get a look at his twisted psyche, making this one of the most disturbing characters I've ever seen depicted on film, as I don't find it a stretch to imagine people like this actually exist.
Special note also has to be made of both Jessica Alba, and Kate Hudson, who play Ford`s two lovers/victims, as they both made a VERY brave choice by appearing in a film that`s way outside their comfort zones. Hudson hasn't been this good since ALMOST FAMOUS, and she so disappears into the role that, if I hadn't known ahead of time it was her, I would have never recognized her (amazing what a good director and some hair-dye can do).
Meanwhile, Alba acquits herself very nicely as the randy local prostitute, who`s drawn to the psychotic Ford through her own masochistic streak- perfect summed up in a widely circulated clip from the film where Affleck whips her with a leather belt. Alba`s excellent here, and proves that she`s more than the pretty face (and smokin`bod) she`s been pegged as over the last few years.
As for director Winterbottom, I`m VERY curious to see what this is going to do for his career. Anyone who`s seen other films he`s done, like 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, A MIGHTY HEART, & TRISTRAM SHANDY, have to know that, in his hands, this is not going to be anything even remotely resembling a conventional drama. Hopefully, people with go into this with an open mind, but I have my doubts. It has to be said, Winterbottom does wonders with the large canvas he has to work with here- with the film having the look of a film made in the fifties (the era depicted in the film), right down to the Saul Bass style opening titles, and the kick ass Rock-a-Billy soundtrack. Throughout the film, I kept thinking about director Sam Peckinpah, as this really feels like it could have been one of his films. However, it should be said that in his own Thompson adaptation, the original Steve McQueen GETAWAY, Peckinpah made certain concessions to the studio, and toned down the novel considerably, which Winterbottom does not do here.
I really hope that this film doesn't get unfairly tainted in the light of some inevitably negative reactions that will surely come out of the fest. This is just one of those films that truly is not for everyone. Many with loathe it, but hopefully, just as many will love it.