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The Killer Inside Me
Time Out New York Project: Issue #768, June 17–23, 2010
Dir. Michael Winterbottom. 2010. R. 109mins. Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba.
Small-town deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Affleck) is an ass man. We get this illuminating bit of character insight right at the start of Michael Winterbottom’s feeble adaptation of Jim Thompson’s first person novel: A Texas flatfoot with suppressed murderous instincts, Ford visits a honey of a prostitute (Alba) to run her out of town. But instead, he ends up in bed with her, smacking the dame’s bouncy cheeks until they’re alluringly black and blue. It’s a conceptually great start to a down-and-dirty thriller, but there’s no heat in the scene, no real sense of either tension or transgression.
Winterbottom’s inability to bring off this lurid stew of sex and violence is one problem; his (mis)direction of Affleck is another. The actor’s fey-voiced, golem-gait performance makes Ford into more of a defiantly entitled brat than a cool-as-ice sociopath. Nothing draws you into the character’s twisted worldview: The opaque look he wears throughout seems a misguided attempt to approximate Thompson’s gut-punch prose. And the controversial scenes where he beats Alba and Kate Hudson (as Ford’s pitiably abused fiancée) to graphically bloody pulps are about as affecting and insightful as gym bully–administered wet willies.
A few terrific supporting performances help to maintain interest, most notably from Elias Koteas as a nosy union leader and a late-appearing Bill Pullman, doing the slimy, snake-tongued lawyer act to perfection. They give a welcome satirical jolt to the Southern Gothic dourness, which is more than can be said for the bum’s rush of a combustive finale, with its awful digital effects and a sneering pop music cue. Someone needs a spanking, all right.—Keith Uhlich