Starring: Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom (“A Mighty Heart”)
Written by: John Curran (debut)
It would be impossible to dismiss Michael Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me” wholeheartedly because of the solid albeit sometimes babbly performance by lead actor Casey Affleck or the stylish film noir environment created by Dutch cinematographer Marcel Zyskind (“A Might Heart”), but what little substance and emotional pull the controversial picture has is quickly lost even before Winterbottom’s intentions are fully revealed.
In “The Killer Inside Me,” Affleck, who earned an Oscar nomination for playing another killer in 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” stars as Lou Ford, a well-respected sheriff in the 1950s who is suspected in a string of killings in a small West Texas town. The murders begin with Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), a known prostitute who Lou is having a sadomasochistic affair with after demanding she leave town.
Thorough flashbacks, we find that Lou’s mental problems stem from scarring events he experienced as a young boy. When he meets Joyce, who is open to violent sexual encounters, things start boiling over. Left waiting in the wings is Lou’s wife Amy (Kate Hudson), who is clueless to her husband’s indiscretions and psychopathic tendencies.
Intertwined in the sex, secrets, and sadism is a weak narrative about blackmail and corruption. Nothing, however, is as remotely interesting as trying to pin down what director Winterbottom is actually doing when he turns these curious fetishes into scenes of ultra-violent rage. If these scenarios are supposed to make viewers feel uncomfortable, they succeed. If they’re supposed to answer questions about Lou’s vicious character, they don’t.
What we’re left with is a thriller without much suspense and characterizations that fall by the wayside in favor of brutality that offers little to the script at hand. A film should never be penalized for being “too violent” especially if it enhances elements of the story. “The Killer Inside Me,” however, simply flaunts its ability to disturb, which makes it seem desperate to evoke some kind of sensation more than anything.