Director: Michael Winterbottom
Principal cast: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson.
Release date: 8 June 2010 (on general release now).
Casey Affleck portrays deputy sheriffÂ Lou Ford, assigned to remove small time prostitute Joyce (Alba) from town following her romance with a local tycoon’s son.
Falling in love with Joyce and killing her in a heated exchange, Ford further murders the tycoon’s son, fixing the scene of the crime as a violent love kill between the two dead parties.
As investigations transpire, suspicion falls upon the sheriff as he begins to eliminate any leads to himself and thus revealing an extremely brutal side to his nature.
I have always been a lover of everything film noir (from The Third Man to Blade Runner) and my expectations for The Killer Inside Me were high. Maybe I was hoping for a Bad Day at Black Rock for a modern generation or something more akin to A Simple Plan. But what director Michael Winterbottom has served up is more in tune with a small town Clockwork Orange with extreme violence.
Indeed it will be the violence which will overshadow any merits of the film. How much visual violence is needed to explain a character’s motivation or develop a story is questionable and it may be argued that in some circumstances what is not shown but implied is more effective. In this instance we are subjected to images of Alba being beaten to a pulp and Hudson following a similar fate. Personally, I found this too disturbing/extreme and questioned the director’s need to follow this through.
In such scenes of killing, music plays a vital part of the film’s character, moving bizarrely from Opera during Ford’s introspective moments to 50’s honky tonk following scenes of extreme violence.
In such films the femme fatale always plays an important role, and the two female leads do not disappoint. Alba portrays the sweet but cunning prostitute luring Affleck into a web of murder and thus opening up his psychopathic tendencies whilst Hudson is exceptional as the straight but heartfelt Amy doomed to follow Ford and suffer the consequences.
Affleck’s role as the psychopath hiding beneath the small town clean cut baby faced gentlemen is excellently portrayed. There’s coldness to him and we never truly find out if there is remorse for his killings, albeit we do gain an insight into his past and what may have disturbed him. Â It’s an assured performance and I agree with Empire in that he would make a perfect Riddler in a future Batman film.
Excellent support comes from the entire cast, especially the ever excellent Elias Koteas as the local union man pitching trouble against Ned Beatty’s small town tycoon.
Violence apart, many will find the purpose and message of film confusing. Is it a grotesque comedy, film noir thriller or social commentary? In this respect I felt that film needed clarification and what we are left with is a small town soap opera with a dark undercurrent spiralling into a comedy of errors and an absurd ending.
Stylishly filmed with some excellent performances, The Killer Inside Me follows the tradition of American 50’s film noir. However, it is let down by some appalling on screen violence.