Michael Winterbottom is, for the most part, an interesting and talented director. 24 Hour Party People is one of my favourite movies, A Cock And Bull Story is almost as good and he seems to easily hop between genres and avoid categorisation. Okay, so I pretty much loathed 9 Songs but not everyone can hit a home run every time at the bat (to use a completely unnecessary baseball analogy).
When The Killer Inside Me was released there was quite a furore. Those who appoint themselves in charge of looking after our sensitive souls were quick to denounce the onscreen brutality and to call for a mass display of outrage against something so misogynistic and downright nasty. I was, of course, immediately interested in seeing the thing and I can’t believe it took me so long to get round to it.
The story is all about deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) and his gradual metamorphosis into a psychotic killer, hence the title. His grand scheme involves a local prostitute (Jessica Alba), his potential fiancé (Kate Hudson) and a number of other people that he wants to bring down amidst the fallout.
I was hoping that Michael Winterbottom wouldn’t disappoint me this time and he didn’t. At all. This is an assured, stylish movie with moments of absolutely shocking, unflinching violence that will make even the hardiest viewers flinch. There is a beating depicted onscreen here that ranks with the most unrelenting onslaught of fist-to-face violence I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of nasty movies. But there’s also plenty of intelligence and atmosphere to go with the violence. You get the everyday, small-town feel as everyone nods and speaks to Lou Ford. You can feel the heat of a standard day and feel things warming up as Lou’s world beings to get smaller and smaller.
Seeing that the script (by John Curran) was adapted from a Jim Thompson novel was another plus point for me. Thompson is a great writer and the originator of material that gave me one of my other favourite movies, The Grifters (see it ASAP if you haven’t already). Those familiar with his work will know what to expect. He takes you to uncomfortable places but does so with a seductive ease that makes his writing as enjoyable as it is, at times, repugnant.
Everything about the movie, technically, is superb but I’ve saved my last chunk of praise for the performances. Casey Affleck, in particular, is someone I haven’t always had a lot of time for but here he is absolutely brilliant. His Lou Ford is all smiles and good manners, even as he readies himself to kill someone he has known for years. Jessica Alba is good enough in her role and Kate Hudson is excellent. Support comes from Simon Baker, Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas and Jay R. Ferguson, among others. All quality actors giving great performances.
If you don’t like movies that can make you squirm uncomfortably and yet still somehow entertain or mesmerise you from start to finish then move along and pick something safer to view. But if you can handle the tough material I happily encourage you to give this film a watch and enjoy superior adult fare.
DIRECTOR: MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM
STARS: CASEY AFFLECK, JESSICA ALBA, KATE HUDSON, NED BEATTY, SIMON BAKER, ELIAS KOTEAS, BILL PULLMAN
RUNTIME: 109 MINS APPROX