Saturday, June 26, 2010

Small Town Malaise: The Killer Inside Me

Michael Winterbottom's twisting Texas noir, "The Killer Inside Me", is a chilling and repugnant adaptation of the great Jim Thompson's pulp novel, sending waves into the pop culture universe for its unflinching violence towards two pretty starlets Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson) and not really giving a damn about it. I use words like repugnant above in the best sense. This is a great film for the way it buries so many emotions, none more so than the quiet facade led by Texas sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) as he deviously sacrifices everything he loves to satisfy the demons within. "The Killer Inside Me" doesn't wink at the audience or service any post-modern demands for the neo-noir genre.... it's a film that simply observes it characters strutting around in the well manicured southern locations, quietly tracking the serial killer sheriff with a voice over that almost lulls one to sleep and making one's skin crawl when the inevitable violence does overtake the narrative. In the varied oeuvre of British director Michael Winterbottom, he upholds his chameleon streak with a stifling portrait of small town Texas life in the 50's as if he's always lived here.

Affleck, as he did in "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford", tackles the central performance like a soft spoken Jekyll and Hyde. If one were to go into "The Killer Inside Me" with no preconceived ideas of the story, Affleck sells his genteel southern sheriff in the opening moments as a true good 'ol boy... someone we could easily see as a hero. But when the shoe drops and Affleck presents Sheriff Ford as a masochistic sex addict and killer, he turns the performance into something altogether tragic, most wince-inducing after the brutal fist beating of local prostitute Joyce (Jessica Alba) in the film's first 30 minutes in an effort to unwind himself from family secrets and a complicated blackmail plot. From there, Winterbottom and screenwriter John Curran slowly spin their tale as the noose tightens around Ford's neck and he attempts to hold together his 'other' life, namely his impending marriage to local girl Amy (Kate Hudson) while a suspecting federal agent (Simon Baker) works to pin the guilt on Affleck.

If the violence shown against women is the central point of contention for so many people, what seems to be missing is the idea that Winterbottom and Curran have done nothing but adapt a story that is 50 years old. In it's updating, there's nothing titillating about the violence, which only strengthens the craftsmanship of the film. Definitely the most radical and consuming of Thompson's novels, "The Killer Inside Me" still feels radical and consuming today, especially in it's apocalyptic ending.

1 comment:

Derek Armstrong said...

I liked but didn't love this movie, but my feelings had nothing to do with the violence -- like anything I don't see very often in the movies, it was captivating in its own way. I guess my problem is that I wanted the movie to conform to my expectations of a killer a little more -- mainstream cinema has taught me to think of killers as brilliant madmen who always methodically cover their tracks and are rarely suspected of their crimes. In this way, Affleck's character was sloppy -- there was almost no way it wouldn't be determined that he was responsible. I guess this made the narrative itself a little less interesting for me. However, I agree that Affleck is brilliant in this film, and that people should see it.