The Killer Inside Me Directed by: Michael Winterbottom Cast: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty, SImon Baker Running Time: 1 hr 49 mins Rating: R Release Date: June 25, 2010 (limited)
PLOT: The film follows a small-town Texas sheriff (Affleck) who moonlights as a killer. The film examines his spiral downward as he falls for a prostitute (Alba) and the affect it has on his sanity when things quickly go wrong.
WHO'S IT FOR? The film is brutal in its depiction of realistic violence so I would say that this one is mainly for those with strong stomachs. Even veteran Saw fans may have a tough time with this level of realistic violence, but the performance pays off. Fans of Affleck or just an enthralling character study may also enjoy the film.
EXPECTATIONS: I'd heard good things about Affleck's performance as a charismatic psycho. I was admittedly nervous for Alba's involvement, so I hadn't set my hopes too high, but a good character study is hard to find and that's what I was looking for when I strolled into this movie.
Casey Affleck as Lou Ford: Affleck was charged with the difficult task of making a believable serial killer. It's easy to border on the cartoon-y (i.e. some of Jack Nicholson's performance in The Shining) but Affleck holds his own. Although his character is riddled with pop psychology, he makes it believable and disturbing in his transformation from Southern gentleman to sociopath. Score: 8
Jessica Alba as Joyce Lakeland: Alba is part of the inciting incident, but lucky for me, she's not in it much. She's beautiful to look at as the down and out prostitute, but I've never cared much for her acting. This movie is a perfect example of why. Her character is never afforded much depth and doesn't seem to make the best life choices, so it would seem like the perfect role for Alba. Unfortunately, she shows about as much commitment to her character and Southern accent as Cameron Diaz did in Gangs of New York. Just pick a dialect! Score: 3
Kate Hudson as Amy Stanton: Hudson's always been hit or miss for me. In this film, I couldn't tell if I didn't like her in the role or just the role itself. As the helpless wife-to-be of the deviant lead, she quickly gets annoying, but she proves that she can hold her own throughout. Her accent is pretty decent, which helps the character, but I couldn't help but feel that there was more to the character than I was shown. She did the best with the material handed to her and while it may not be memorable, she's a highlight of the film. Score: 5
SImon Baker as Howard Hendricks: Baker is the foil to Affleck. The only issue is, he's supposed to pose a threat to the safety of our lead, and that's difficult to convey with only a few scenes. He's not given enough screen time to be truly intimidating. The film would've been better if they'd trim some of the fat with other characters and beefed up Baker's role. Score: 5
TALKING: The voice of the film is very literary, which makes sense since it's based off a book by the same name. Affleck as the narrator is charmingly aloof, which helps create some of the tension of the film. As for the dialogue, besides the lack of commitment to the Texan accent by some of the characters, it's not very noticeable, but it's not a bad thing. The dialogue works in the context of the film. It seems very natural for these characters to speak as they do but afterwards, none of it's very memorable. The movie itself and the acting certainly are worth remembering, but the dialogue is very plain, which manages to work. Score: 7
SIGHTS: What you get when you walk into The Killer Inside Me is a little bit of the best of both worlds. The film is a period piece set in the 1950s, so you get the cheerful fashion and cars, but not so much as most other period pieces, to the point of it being a distraction. To offer a balance, there's also plenty of dull earth tones and Texan scenery. This helps to establish the environment of the film, but it's also nice on a purely visual level. While there's nothing elaborately beautiful about the film that would make it a necessary theater viewing, it's elegant and charming in its simplicity. Still, it's the violence that's most memorable. It's bloody and gruesome, but never over the top. Its commitment to realism is part of what makes the film so disturbing. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The music of the film is largely blues and country. Now I'm not talking your typical Kenny Chesney type stuff, but real country. This helps cement the time and place of the film in a barely noticeable way. It's reassuring but never in your face about it. Fans of blues or old school country western will be delighted to see the film make such good use of it as it also helps to juxtapose the music with the senseless brutality of the film. In certain instances, opera is used in a scene or two, which just comes across as awkward. It feels like a game of musical "Spot the Difference". Other than that, it's an excellent use of music to stir emotion and also serve as a form of exposition. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: I hesitate to say best, but the scenes of violence are colored with unflinching realism. It's nice to finally see a movie that uses its violence to shock rather than to de-sensitize. Just about all scenes involving Lou's sadistic side coming out are almost too difficult to watch, but that's what makes the movie so compelling.
ENDING: The ending is a bit random. I mean, you know what's going to happen, but it feels like it happens about 10 minutes after you'd expect it to end. Still, the ending is certainly memorable, as one would expect from this kind of movie.
QUESTIONS: I honestly don't know if I missed something, but I could have sworn they said Joyce was dead? Also, honestly, what woman comes back for more? Is the author just a misogynist?
REWATCHABILITY: Probably not. It was good as an experience and as a performance piece, but not too easy to sit through.
As The Killer Inside Me ventures into the twisted mind of a depraved killer, it's difficult to put in terms of "liked" or "disliked". It is certainly an experience, that can't be denied. Still, at its best, it is a fine performance piece for Casey Affleck. At its worst, it's a misogynistic tale full of pop psychology to explain away any real issues.
Much like the murderer of the film, Winterbottom's piece lacks any real heart. It was fascinating to watch while it went on, but in the end, there just too many issues that I couldn't forgive. Besides the character of Lou Ford, most of these other people, particularly the women, come across as mere caricatures. Even more troublesome is that the film never really differentiates between these misogynistic views being the hang-ups of a psychopath or if, at least to a certain extent, they are shared by others. The lack of complexity or subtlety afforded the female characters, most notably Alba's Joyce, is as disturbing as the violence that befalls them.
Still, as with most controversial films, the boyish curiosity in me is what held me in my seat throughout the film. While I wouldn't be too quick to recommend people to rush out and see the film, it is something that I think most people might want to see. The issue is that, as I said before, it's a performance piece for Affleck. Granted, a well deserved performance piece, but as with most other acting vehicles, everything besides Affleck's performance falls to the wayside. In the end, an immediate viewing isn't necessary, but for fans of the craft of acting, watch for Affleck's turn as Lou Ford and for Lou Ford alone.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10