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Wadrick's Celluloid Dungeon

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

Starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Elias Koteas, Simon Baker, Tom Bower, Bill Pullman & Ned Beatty.
Written by John Curran.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom.

As character study, The Killer Inside Me delves further into the mind of a thoroughly reprehensible individual than any film I care to recall. The protagonist Lou Ford (Affleck) is a seemingly respectable member of small town America in the 1950s, a deputy sheriff with a quiet demeanour and measured voice. Below the surface however, Ford is teeming with pent aggression traceable to a truly disturbed childhood. His treatment of women has its roots set firmly in a twisted sexual ethos perpetuated by his mother; the blame for his sociopathic tendencies squared directly on the shoulders of this parent. At the beginning of the film he is tasked with running out of town the local whore Joyce (Alba) who has taken the heart of the son of the town’s construction magnate. But Ford is instantly struck by the prostitute’s likeness to his own mother, his demon – not merely a physical resemblance but a psychological similarity; resulting in a tragic outcome for Ford and those close to him, those who think they know him. As Ford himself states early on: “The problem with living in a small town is that everyone thinks they know you.” This multi-layered film is not a pleasant experience. It is exceptionally well-made and acted, with Affleck delivering yet another outstanding performance – this time of understated menace. The entire cast is superb, but this is Affleck’s film from the outset and it is doubtful, despite the class perpetuated by the cast and filmmakers, that The Killer Inside Me would have been the same film without him. Based on Jim Thompson’s novel (filmed before in 1976 with Stacy Keach as Ford), the film has been cited and trashed in many circles due to its violent content. The violence is rather restrained save for two scenes in question that feature the beating of the female characters. Misogyny! cry the detractors, yet as film writer for The Times Stephen Dalton pointed out, most critics of the film have mistaken content for intent. The scene involving the horrendous beating of Joyce packs more of a sadistic punch (no pun intended) than any amphetamine-charged torture porn, and there is no doubt of the effect it has on the audience in relation to the character of Ford. (But no, this is film noir – I’m not comparing it to a horror film.) Unlike any number of gratuitously violent films of recent times, The Killer Inside Me treats its violent content as an extension of character, rather than a necessary, exploitative story device. The credit for this could go equally to Affleck, Thompson, or director Michael Winterbottom (Code 46Welcome To Sarajevo); each has contributed to the pleasantly sour taste that The Killer Inside Me has left in my mouth.

by Wadrick Jones

Pics: obsessedwithfilm.com; clothesonfilm.com; teaser-trailer.com


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  1. hey y’all

    i have been waiting for a good movie to come of this book. other jim thompson books that have made it to the screen have been the getaway and the grifters.

    after reading this review i can tell that nobody read the book. its a lil 2d compared to the book but hell, i dug it :) although the grifters was a better adaptation of the thompson style of story telling. oh yeah and casey affleck came off as much less of a “man” than the character in the book. affleck is more of a DUDE.

    Posted by deryke | February 17, 2011, 6:07 pm
  2. Hi Deryke – been a while since I saw you on here. Thanks for the comment.

    I have read Thompson’s book – it was a long time ago though. You are right what you say about Casey being more of a “dude” :) than the Lou of the book – but there are always expected changes in film adaptations, and that was one I could live with considering how good he was in the role. (I even think it was perhaps more effective using an actor of Affleck’s physique.)

    Ya know – film adaptations of novels are always gonna be kinda 2D in comparison. You just can’t get all the complexities and nuance of a book into a film – it’s impossible. The art-forms are so different. But I thought the Killer Inside Me was a worthy attempt.

    Anyway, that’s just my humble opinion.

    Posted by Wadrick | February 18, 2011, 4:20 am
  3. have you seen The Grifters ? it’s a Cusak classic :!

    Posted by deryke | February 22, 2011, 6:38 pm
  4. Heh, heh – yeah man, love that movie (when I reviewed it a year or so ago, I’m sure you left a comment…I know you’re a big JT fan…)…

    Posted by Wadrick | February 23, 2011, 5:47 pm
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