Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

The Killer Inside Me

USA 2010
Directed by
Michael Winterbottom
109 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Killer Inside Me

Synopsis: Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a deputy sheriff in a small West Texas town. He’s well-liked by all but when he is ordered by his boss to run a  prostitute, Joyce (Jessica Alba) out of town in order he sees an opportunity to revenge the cover-up of his brother’s murder by the town boss (Ned Beatty) but his acts uncover the demon within.

Michael Winterbottom is notable for the range of his output. For the past few years he has travelled from Manchester (24 Hour Party People) to Guantanamo Bay (The Road To Guantanamo) and back (Tristram Shandy) and forwards (Code 46) in time. Here he heads into Coen Brothers’ territory – sex, murder and corruption in the American Deep South  - and if that’s your idea of a good time, then you should enjoy the result*.

Much has been made of the film’s violence, in particular Lou's protracted pummelling of his prostitute girlfriend, something which caused walk-outs and angry reactions at Sundance earlier this year. Perhaps it was not the pummelling per se as much as the implication that Joyce, if not exactly enjoying it, gets some kind of masochistic pleasure from it (and this does have its repercussion later in the film). On the other hand, the second act of violence against a woman is relatively brief, albeit no less brutal for that, but so brief that one wonders that death could have resulted. In hindsight perhaps it justifies the protracted nature of the first beating. Although note that in neither case does Lou get any blood on him. Winterbottom is not a director to reiterate the obvious.  

For, let’s face it, The Killer Inside Me is not realism  - it is a genre film.  It utilizes familiar ideas, both thematic and formal, and the critical issue is, given that these are very familiar, whether it manages to do something interesting with them. I would say Winterbottom has done very well indeed, particularly as he doesn’t have the Coen’s considerable track record with this kind of material (the final scene owes much the brothers' Barton Fink, 1991). From the jazzy opening credits onwards, the film, based on a novel by Jim Thompson, renders the modern pulp fiction view of a 1950s Southern oil-town wonderfully (it is well worth checking out the classic contemporary representations of the same milieu in films like The Long, Hot Summer, 1957). Winterbottom, working from a script by Australian writer-director, John Curran (who had a hit with The Painted Veil in 2006), keeps the mood wound tight and quietly menacing at the same time as he keeps a stylistic parenthesis around it all.

The key to the film’s efficacy is the character of Lou Ford, nicely played by Casey Affleck. Lou is in many ways your perfect everyday killer – he’s not striding around like The Terminator or an Angel of Death but rather has smoothly assimilated himself into the good ol’boy culture of the Deep South. Yet in truth he is deeply dissociated from it. As the film progresses Winterbottom and Curran gives us brief glimpses into his past so that we understand the psycho-sexual (Winterbottom gives us a kind of a wink in this respect) source of his problem without indulging in B-grade exposition of it. Most of the other characters are your standard stock-in-trade of the genre, albeit all well played. It is good to see Ned Beatty getting a significant role as the town boss and Kate Hudson is surprisingly good as Lou’s girlfriend. Jessica Alba is not called on to do a lot but she does that quite well, even though she doesn’t look much like what I imagine a 1950s prostitute would look like.

There were for me a couple of reservations – the casting of Simon Baker with his televisual good looks made suspending disbelief difficult when he was on-screen and the dispatching of a pan-handler late in the film was a little too convenient. But overall, The Killer Inside Me is a stylish, taut and intense exercise in pulp fiction that benefits from Winterbottom's intelligent handling of it.

*It seems that the film is a project Winterbottom has had in development for some time. In his 1998 I Want You, a film which also has the relation between sex and violence at its core, the male lead is seen early in the piece packing a Picador compendium edition of Thomson's novels, one of which is The Killer Inside Me.





Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst