REVIEW: The Killer Inside Me [2010]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: R | Runtime: 109 minutes | Release Date: June 18th, 2010 (USA)
Studio: IFC Films
Director(s): Michael Winterbottom
Writer(s): John Curran / Jim Thompson (novel)

“It’s always lightest just before the dark”

Nobody is more across the board genre-wise than director Michael Winterbottom. Who else could traverse the broad canvases of Steve Coogan shenanigans, Guantanamo Bay documentation, the human condition of emotion in the face of terrorism, and an unsimulated meld of sex and rock n’ roll? Shake those sensibilities up with screenwriter John Curran’s penchant for thought-provoking material, (this year’s Stone is much more than the cookie cutter its trailer advertises), and the pulp crime styling of novelist Jim Thompson and you’ll need to prepare yourself for a unique visionary tale of the beast rising inside a well-mannered West Texas deputy sheriff. Even so, however, The Killer Inside Me still was not what I expected it to be. Through all the buzz describing hard to watch violence and sex, I thought it would be Natural Born Killers with a stern filter devoid of the comic attributes I love about the Oliver Stone film. Instead, the filmmakers give us a methodical look into the intricately laid out and improvised plans of a man broken, someone with the capacity to love if only to feel something when destroying it.

We catch glimpses into Lou Ford’s (Casey Affleck) past, but are never quite aware of what we see. Union leader Joe Rothman (Elias Koteas) helps illuminate things by mentioning the death of Ford’s stepbrother Mike, alluding to a conspiracy involving the county’s king of industry Chester Conway (Ned Beatty), how the young man was possibly murdered in response to a jail stint for a crime we soon learn was actually committed by Lou. Sexually abused as a child—by a woman who I’m going to infer was his mother—the boy doesn’t become a battered victim, but instead revels in the activity of sadomasochism, a practice he later adopts in his adult sexual escapades. We know this fact at the very beginning as Lou heads out to evict a prostitute from the town, Jessica Alba’s Joyce, only to end up smacking her around with his belt and eventually beginning an affair—all while his girlfriend Amy (Kate Hudson) waits at home in their bed. But, like all great sociopaths, Ford plays the part, conniving his way into workable alibis, framing innocents, exacting revenge, and getting arousal from both the women and the thrill of danger.

You begin to look beyond how all the pieces appear to fall into place for Ford, his plans seemingly foolproof and any snag conveniently finding a way to rectify itself by increasing the body count. Affleck’s performance at the center is too good to ignore in the face of the story he inhabits. With gorgeous visuals—darker scenes somber and tense while others become awash in brilliant light, hauntingly whitening the frame—and language so wonderful in its precise attention to the southern etiquette at play even when tragedy strikes, Winterbottom shows his mastery of tone. He even has his lead actor narrate the proceedings, that noir convention to help explain motivations and utilized to delve deeper into the mind of this monster. A man of the law known by everyone in Central City, no one would ever suspect the dark secret of violence he holds at bay. Only Rothman has a clue to who the real Ford may be, but he isn’t in a place to expose the charade. And, by that point, Lou has already found a release for the darkness with his sexual tryst in Joyce’s bed, the dragon getting stronger and more willing to enter the world.

The actual plot is a series of backstabbing and revenge tactics for Ford to even some scores before leaving town with the whore for which he’s fallen in love. Despite Affleck’s calm delivery and quiet cadence, his remorselessness trumps any true emotional attachments, making everyone in his life expendable to reach his endgame. The capacity to love and feel sorrow lives in tandem with his penchant to make those who wronged him suffer. Anyone getting in the way of those plans will be collateral damage, no matter whom he/she might be. One murder makes a second of the utmost importance, the chain of tragic events to follow a direct result. Ford will do anything to stay clear of the charges; never wanting to hurt anyone else, but willing to if the goal calls for more. People get too close, accidents happen, and errors must be corrected. The beauty to The Killer Inside Me, though, is that when all is said and done, you look back and wonder if the police knew all along. Through the twists and turns, both Sheriff Bob (Tom Bower) and Agent Howard Hendricks (Simon Baker) act as one would from the tragedy at hand. But maybe it’s the realization of what Ford is that causes their anguish.

I won’t lie, the sex scenes do their best to show Ford’s desire to inflict pain and the violence is realistic, fists and kicks flying before contacting flesh softened and swelled from extreme repetition. Ford apologizes during the act; the murders are justified to him, but still weigh on the happiness of his libido at the same time. He has everything planned out to the minutest details and no one is quicker on his toes when wrenches work their way in. Brent Briscoe’s drifter comes into the tale as the perfect scapegoat for both sides of the crimes. He could be the final piece to Ford’s puzzle—a happy accident fallen in his lap; or perhaps he’s the last bit of questionable evidence to have enough for an arrest of this killer running wild. Either way, it’s all just a game for Ford. Capture was always an option and in the end he knows the authorities must have something on him. It all culminates into a final blowout where all the important players are in attendance, (even an unknown deputy Ford tells to say nothing because they gave him no lines). He gets his climactic finale to end his orchestra of death with a bang.

[1] Kate Hudson as Amy Stanton and Casey Affleck as Lou Ford in THE KILLER
INSIDE ME directed by Michael Winterbottom Photo Caption: Michael Muller
[2] Casey Affleck as Lou Ford in THE KILLER INSIDE ME directed by Michael
Winterbottom Photo Caption: Michael Muller
[3] Jessica Alba as Joyce Lakeland in THE KILLER INSIDE ME directed by Michael
Winterbottom Photo Caption: Michael Muller
An IFC Films release

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