Sex and violence take centre stage in the enthralling, if a little overcooked crime thriller, The Killer Inside Me.
In a time where serial killers are TV stars and blood thirsty child vigilantes are lauded as heroes, it has taken Michael Winterbottom to remind us that violence is not meant to be entertaining. It’s supposed to be ugly, brutal, emotionally and spiritually draining, and like a blood splattered stain on a crisp white shirt, not easy to erase from the mind.
A now infamous scene in The Killer Inside Me, which features Casey Affleck’s mild mannered deputy sheriff pummelling Jessica Alba’s prostitute within an inch of her life, is all of those things and more: Sadistic, misogynistic, overwrought, and drawn out.
Yet such are the risks when adapting Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel of the same name, once described by Stanley Kubrick as “one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written," and despite the sparse ultra-violent sequences and some undeveloped plot points, Winterbottom has succeeded in creating a moody and well acted crime thriller that is sure to achieve cult status.
Affleck stars as Lou Ford, the deputy Sheriff of a small southern town who beneath his well-to-do nice guy interior harbours some seriously messed up sociopathic tendencies, which he puts to use in a complicated revenge plot involving the town magnate (Ned Beatty) and local prostitute/trick on the side (Alba).
It is a performance to rival his 2007 double header Gone Baby Gone and The Assassination of Jesse James, yet probably won’t see awards acclaim due to the extreme nature of his character, a smart, sly, well mannered southerner, who talks philosophical nothings through a croaky draw, and whose psycho sexual impulses directly corresponds with his penchant for brutish violence.
And violence at its most raw is what he dishes out. Sex also features prominently, and game in both capacities are Alba and Kate Hudson as Dobbs’ women, Hudson especially hitting the right buttons as the good girl turned kinky lover.
They, as well as their equally impressive co-stars (Baker, Bower, Koteas), take to their characters noir-ish characteristics in both look and attitude.
Winterbottom in turn delivers a film dripping in style, yet his voyage into the mind of a killer lacks a heartbeat, and maybe that’s the point. But does a cold and detached character have to make for a cold and detached film?
What it does make is for an interesting parallel to Winterbottom’s previous release Genova, for while that film was a spiritually enriching fable, The Killer Inside Me is void of soul and dripping in sin. Exactly what a godless noir should be.