The Killer Inside Me review - Brit director Michael Winterbottom never shrinks from trouble, even if his gadabout output – a range of raunchy romps, pop movies, political polemics and adaps of “unfilmable” novels – sometimes comes at the cost of emotional investment.
With that in mind, his take on Jim Thompson’s tough-to-handle ’52 pulp-noir novel is true to form, being another genre departure and a hot chat-box topic owing to its depictions of violence against women.
Set in the ’50s, Killer cleaves chillingly close to Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), a West Texas deputy sheriff. Lou’s aesthetically inclined. He’s also a soft-spoken psycho. Tasked to turf hooker Joyce (Jessica Alba) out of town and save local oil big-wig Chester Conway (Ned Beatty) from family scandal, Ford stalls when he finds Joyce shares his jones for rump-spanking.
The ensuing rough stuff rouses murderous instincts when he turns on Joyce in a grim visual match for Thompson’s “pounding a pumpkin” image, then frames Chester’s son for the crime on account of the Conway family’s issues.
Ford’s violence is strong, perhaps unwatchably, but doesn’t dominate the film. That job goes to Affleck’s mumbling whisper, narrating with Patrick Batemanesque unreliability. Charismatic and cocky, Affleck kills in the role, although he’s one fine performance among many: notably, Crash’s magnetic Elias Koteas is lethal as a slyly knowing union man.
Alba and Kate Hudson allay fears of misogyny, boldly pitching outside their safety zones. Hudson, especially, transforms herself as Ford’s girlfriend Amy. If our view of them seems limited, that’s because John Curran’s keen script maintains our immersion in Ford’s skewed viewpoint.
Killer eschews psychological spoon feeding, trusting us to discern Ford’s motives. Remaining inscrutable throughout, Lou doesn’t crack as suspicion mounts. Neither does Winterbottom.
Never sweetening the pill, he stays true to Thompson’s thickening ambiguities, casting long, noir-ish shadows as he goes.
Taking a cold, cruel plunge into its sociopath’s world, Winterbottom’s latest genre swerve is an accomplished neo-noir.