Stanley Kubrick called Jim Thompson’s ’50s pulp novel The Killer Inside Me “probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered”.
Attempting to pierce its heart of darkness, Michael Winterbottom has crafted an adap that boldly flaunts fidelity to its brutal provocations.
Casey Affleck is perfectly cast as small-town Sheriff Lou Ford – clean white shirt, black soul – who has Freud on his bookshelves, Schubert in his record collection and De Sade in his headspace.
Lou’s murderous tailspin is sparked by a hooker (Jessica Alba) who dotes on him while enflaming his S&M leanings: the first time they meet, she smacks him in the face and he whips her raw with his belt. It’s an encounter ripe with emotional, sexual and psychological reverberations.
More challenging is to come – the movie’s most explosive scene (a shocking blackglove pummelling) smashes open old debates about the presentation and complexity of screen violence. But what will long outlive the controversy is Affleck’s implosive performance.
Echoing The Assassination Of Jesse James, it’s another portrait of boyish amiability masking hair-trigger sickness. Lou himself has no idea why he does such evil things, despite the hints at his own childhood history of violence.
Refusing glib explanations, Winterbottom’s arm’s-length direction – which will alienate some – leaves us alone in the room with Affleck. The movie’s all the bolder for it – “chilling and believable” indeed.
So much to discuss here, yet there’s no commentary, only cheaply shot soundbite interviews and some fly-on-the-wall footage. Pity.