Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"The Killer Inside Me" (2010)

Director Michael Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me" succeeds in that it is as difficult and challenging to take as is reading the original 1950s novel by Jim Thompson from which the movie is adapted. It also succeeds in being an unconventional tale of a sociopath and a murderer, one that comes from the perspective of not the villains but rather the one doing the killing. It makes for chilling subject matter, most notably that of the upsetting and literally pulverizing, brutal violence. It becomes central to the story of Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) and the poor souls who fall victim to him, especially the women in his life, Joyce (Jessica Alba) and Amy (Kate Hudson). The fact that the most disturbing fits of violence are inflicted upon them gives the film a heavy weight. Misogynistic and masochistic as it may be, when dealing with the mind of a man like this, Winterbottom is daring in that he doesn't let viewers turn away from it.

Set in western Texas in the small town of Central City in 1959, the film is anchored by a hauntingly unsettling portrait of Lou Ford by the talented Casey Affleck who has done similarly moody pieces before such as "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "Gone Baby Gone." While mostly introverted, Affleck's sly, maniacal smiles and sometimes downright bizarre voiceovers and instances where he talks to himself make him terrifying, a symbol of uncontrollable yet unforeseeable chaos. The way Affleck's Lou interacts with people he meets and police colleagues make him out to be an eccentric character, not a murderous man, which creates a figure to be feared even more.

Also in line with Thompson's novel is the facade of 1950s life in a small city where everyone is satisfied with the status quo. The prostitute, Joyce, residing inside the city needs to be expelled by means that are behind the scenes, means that spark the remarkable bouts of violence to follow. The bubbly period piece soundtrack keeps this sense of irony afloat with dark and unruly undertones of Lou Ford's manic psychology. This tension makes for a very uneasy feeling, one that is oddly fitting considering the pervading theme of nothing being as it appears.

As Winterbottom's first American film, this is an ambitious start. Still though, something about "The Killer Inside Me" adaptation feels like a missed opportunity. The pieces are all there, but some don't fully connect into place. There is a little too much emphasis on menial plot points than Lou Ford's endlessly fascinating inner self. As well of a job as Affleck does, he could have been given even more. With such, this remains only a good movie and never a truly great one.

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