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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 9, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 28
The Killer Inside Me takes a hard look at the sociopath
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The Killer Inside Me takes a hard look at the sociopath

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

The Killer Inside Me
Now Playing
Landmark
Varsity Theatre


Warning: This film is not for the squeamish. Warning: This warning is not an exaggeration. I can handle a good deal of cinematic violence and this film pushed me to my limits.

The Killer Inside Me is based on the '50s-era pulp novel of the same name by Jim Thompson. Thompson also wrote screenplays, co-writing Stanley Kubrick's early films The Killing and Paths of Glory. Other films based on his novels include The Getaway, The Grifters, and an earlier version of The Killer Inside Me starring Stacy Keach as Lou Ford.

In the 2010 version of The Killer Inside Me, Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a small-town West Texas deputy with a solid reputation, a sassy girlfriend (Kate Hudson), and a nasty little secret. One day Ford goes out to check on a local prostitute named Joyce (Jessica Alba) and he ends up roughing her up a bit before he fucks her (in all fairness, she hits him first). Everything, including murder, extortion, incest, and all manner of mayhem, spirals out of control from this point of departure. And believe me, this badass little flick has a little of everything.

The storytelling is tight. The plot unfolds purposefully at the perfect pace with periodic leaps of shocking revelation. Under director/co-writer Michael Winterbottom's expert direction, Affleck unwraps Lou Ford with methodical precision, and you can't look away no matter how evil he is (or how bloody things get). The viewer and the film's other characters discover the truth about Ford together, which is an extremely interesting narrative trick.

The West Texas landscape is shot lovingly by frequent Winterbottom collaborator Marcel Zyskin in familiar cinematic terms. The film looks like an homage to the classic style of shooting the mythological western space. Some might call it cliché, but I prefer to think of it as situating the film within a specific cinematic tradition.

Casey Affleck may not be the handsome brother, but he certainly is the talented one. He surprised me with his sharp performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (apparently the name Ford brings Affleck mojo). Here he is perfect as an emotionally detached sociopath who's long on confidence and short on empathy. It's a fascinating performance and one that could have easily gone awry.

Jessica Alba is really good at getting her face punched in. I mean really, really good at it. If you're into that sort of thing, you'll enjoy The Killer Inside Me. Also, if you're into that sort of thing, you're a total sicko. Alba also has a couple of other good scenes as the masochistic call girl who figures the deputy as her way out of the sex business and out of town (in a way, she's right).

Veteran Ned Beatty returns to the big screen as the small town's big-dog contractor, Chester Conway. Beatty is always good, and here he gets to be all "Texas rich guy who's not very nice and way smarter than he looks." Kate Hudson, Bill Pullman, and Elias Koteas (another excellent character actor) are along for the ride and do solid work in supporting roles.

The Killer Inside Me (yes that's a dirty double entendre) is a nicely turned out neo-noir flick that's heavy on the violence. However, it's also a razor-sharp look at how (or if) sociopaths come to be. The film is horrendously violent and probably goes a bit further than it needs to, but the violence is central to the film's larger aims. It's about pure violence and the kind of evil that perpetrates pure violence. In our violent world, that's a valid cinematic theme. However, I wouldn't eat much before you see it. See it fast; it's not in Seattle for much longer.

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