The Killer Inside Me (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Killer Inside Me (2010)

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ANDREW LIKEThe Killer Inside Me is complicated and messy.  It's a painfully dark noir centered around a protagonist that doesn't have any sort of moral core.  It also contains scenes that are so violent and nearly out of place that some people have leveled suspicions of misogyny against the film.  I would also like to debate these same people if content automatically determines intent in the case of any art.  Because The Killer Inside Me, while not quite a success, is certainly one of the more interesting films I've seen this year.

The film comes to us from Michael Winterbottom and adapted from the notoriously bleak novel of the same name written by Jim Thompson.  Winterbottom is an ingenious director from England that has delivered consistently intriguing films and one of my personal favorites, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.  For all the directorial challenges he's taken on in the past (TS: ACaBS is gloriously meta) the tone in The Killer Inside Me is curiously flat.  He takes this dark noir and, after opening promisingly with a hefty splash of color and a rollicking cover of "Fever" by Nina Simone, goes in the traditional direction and drives his film into the land of tilted hats, abused women and psychopathic impulses.

This is some tough material, and needed a director that could have provided a fresh spin to the madness.  The plot in The Killer Inside Me is a bit harsher than the typical noir that makes it to the screen.  Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) has been living and working in the same Texas town his whole life.  He puts on the facade of a helpful, generally happy guy but it hides a sadomasochistic desire to hurt that he can scarcely contain.  After he tries to get Joyce, the prostitute of the town (Jessica Alba), to leave town she slaps him and unleashes every bit of lust and rage that he's been trying to keep under wraps.

Casey Affleck's performance would have been right at home in a Kubrick film.

It also brings us to the first of a few uncomfortable scenes where Lou beats Joyce with his belt until she turns the situation around, recognizes a mutual need, and enters into a relationship of sex and violence with him.  This being a noir, Lou is also involved in a number of bribery schemes and cover ups in town that eventually involve the unknowing Joyce.  Rumors start spreading about Lou's mental state, and slowly he allows himself to give in to what he really wants.

If there is one thing that is absolutely perfect about this film it's Casey Affleck's performance.  It's been a pleasure watching him grow as an actor these last few years and here he has a terrifying command of the screen while speaking just a hair above "polite whisper".  He suggests the turmoil with just the slightest adjustment of his eyes and is more than capable of exploding with the full range of his lust when needed.  Shame that couldn't have rubbed off on the other actors.

Elias Koteas (as one of the many conspirators) also does a great job.  He brings a lot of the same sneaky credibility he does to many of his roles.  But Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson as Lou's "real life" girlfriend, and a brief yet hilariously out of touch Bill Pullman all needed a firm hand to guide them in their roles.  They are overly naive, bland, and overdone (respectively) and are miles away from Affleck and Koteas' performances in the film.

Not the most well matched couple, but still far from awkward.

But with all the faults that Winterbottom brings to the screen and the actors fail to elevate, Casey Affleck's performance and the general nihilism of the film made it more than worth my time.  This isn't conventionally entertaining by any stretch of the term, but it is often engrossing - especially when Lou begins to really lose it and starts talking to his demons.  Winterbottom is not the best director for the film, but he at least was a competent one, and knows that his biggest strength was in Affleck's performance.

This is one of those films that kind of put a twist on our rating scale.  I didn't quite like the film, but I was far from indifferent to it's strengths.  So it comes out a failed experiment with the right ideas and wrong execution, but containing an absolutely brilliant performance by Casey Affleck that nearly redeems the whole thing.  An intriguing result, but still left me unfulfilled.

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The Killer Inside Me (2010)

Directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Screenplay written by John Curran.
Starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Elias Koteas and Kate Hudson.

Posted by Andrew

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