The Killer Inside Me
Controversy can be a terrible burden to bare, especially when it is ingrained within the subject matter itself. In an age where we are still too often afraid of the bounds of human sexuality, how does it fall on those chronicling the fringes of the very same, to portray sexual violence, both consensual and otherwise when it is the main crux of a piece?
This is the hurdle that Michael Winterbottom must surpass in bringing Jim Thompson’s gritty noir to life.
Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is the deputy sheriff and most outwardly wholesome individual, yet he has a “sickness”, a need for violence that knows few bounds. As a boy his adoptive brother took the fall for a sexual assault that he had commited, lying dormant until the supposed murder of his brother three years prior and the entrance of a prostitute named Joyce (Jessica Alba) converge. Despite an airtight alibi for his initials actions, a series of events are set in motion that will lead to him killing or inducing further deaths.
Violence is a central theme within the piece and its brutality knows few bounds. Even the rare inclusion of such scenes in an otherwise slow paced movie only highlight that same depraved nature. That these few instances are propagated against women is both the greatest success and point of concern. This is Lou’s narrative and the honest portrayal of these scenes, even in their unflinching brutality reinforces his own delusions and brings us further into the mind of a cold blooded sadist and killer whilst his veil of sanity is slow torn away. Conversely however, the fact that the men are largely handled offscreen or even by external means, draws attention away from the beautifully executed moments of noir and classic filmmaking that would otherwise be centre stage. I would rarely consider myself faint of heart but it is next to impossible to view these elements without remembering such excessiveness. This is a man of extremes, devolving into a monster before our eyes but with the also limited background given other than how he became such a man, it is impossible to invest our sympathies with him. Yet this also previously set to be adapted by Tarantino, a man who has recently rewrote history using an outlandishly excessive revenge fantasy; how he could have done so with less violence and remained true to the book upon which it is based I’m not sure. More so, how this even goes beyond what is already being brought to the screen is only evident in whom the violence is expressly against and perhaps only highlights our own confusion over what is portrayed and the underlying message.
Affleck manages to balance both menace and compassion throughout but the amount of time that is later given to his acts means even in his last moments, we begin to question the latter. The women, both Alba as Joyce and Kate Hudson as Lou’s fiancé Amy acquiesce to his depravity so quickly it is far from infallible. Yes we see through Lou’s eyes but that so little time is spent on the two women who suffer most at his hands is less than ideal. Perhaps Winterbottom longs for us to not take our attention too far away from him; despite his motivations, it inevitably makes Lou just as abhorrent to observe and paints these two central characters as naive and overly subservient in places.
The methodical and slavishly devoted filming techniques are a joy to watch, with the grainy and often unsteady camera adding to the tension as well the protagonists frame of mind. Exquisite detailing and noir elements enrich every frame, adding vibrancy to a movie that never rushes or gives more away than is necessary (even if this later technique is far from perfect). Such a purposeful approach to the source material is to be commended even further when it allows for cameos such as Bill Pullman’s, bringing a last minute reprieve before the conclusion.
Winterbottom has not made a perfect movie and it will certainly be admonished for its gratuitous nature. However even with all its faults, this is a deceptively well thought thriller which paints a picture of a man that others would rather not be brought to life, something that would be a loss for those who despite their feelings, seek to be more than just entertained.