Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Film Yap: The Killer Inside Me

This is not an easy tale. Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me is a classic crime novel that was noted for its dark and frightening protagonist. It is considered unfilmable, but director Michael Winterbottom took on the task. Winterbottom is known for his brilliant Steve Coogan comedies, including 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy, and his more dramatic political films like The Road to Guantanamo and the underseen A Mighty Heart.

The Killer Inside Me is a curious middle ground where its incredibly dark subject material is seen as gritty reality but then it sometimes becomes dark comedy. Casey Affleck plays the sociopath Lou Ford. He is an officer of the law in West Texas who is called to talk a prostitute out of town. When he arrives at Joyce’s house he becomes physically violent with her, which ends up being sexually rewarding. Joyce (Jessica Alba) responds with the same acceptance and this starts a chain reaction of seeing how far Lou can go.

The violence in this film has been talked about to great length. It caused a physical reaction to people when it appeared at Sundance. It is unrelenting, difficult to watch and it was bold for Winterbottom to not shy away from this. As the insanity continues, the violence does not heighten. The audience has time to become adjusted towards the atrocities towards women and that is more frightening than anything presented on screen.

It is a bit of a controversial performance, but Affleck does a great job at underplaying the apathy and never trying to gain any sympathy for his actions. There is no remorse in his eyes; in fact it’s hard to tell what he is every really feeling. The problem is that disconnect is reflective of the film as well. There shouldn’t be an emotional connection with Lou, but morbid curiosity of where this will play out. That is missing from this film and that makes the film dissatisfying.

It’s relieving to see Winterbottom change up the format. In the noir and neo-noir genre, there are plenty of “Bad Decision” films. From Double Indemnity and, a recent example, The Square normal people make a criminal decision at the beginning and spend the rest of the film trying to correct it. They are filled with anxiety, paranoia, and fear. In this film, Lou is calm. He covers things up and continues going. It’s an interesting challenge, but it adds to the disinterest in the narrative. There are so many admirable things about this movie, but that still makes it difficult to recommend.

The bonus features are very laughable. Most IFC DVDs are bare, but this time they had three 3-minute featurettes focused on each of the three leads: Affleck, Alba, and Kate Hudson. It’s really just 2.5 minutes of the same clips but then the other 30 seconds are devoted to the actors talking about their role. Affleck is fine, but the other two are just embarrassing. Alba thinks the whole movie is a love story and Hudson gives us tidbits like actors think about their parts.

Movie: 3 Yaps

Extras: 1.5 Yaps


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