Movie Review: The Killer Inside Me
In the new movie, The Killer Inside Me, Bill Pullman explains that “a weed is just a plant out of place,” which is exactly what this dark and disturbing film noir is, especially given its June release being smack dab in the middle of the light and fluffy summer blockbuster schedule. In a season being ruled by mindless 80s nostalgia (see: A-Team, Karate Kid) and the typical effects-driven vehicles, The Killer Inside Me is a flashback to the provocative and controversial films of the late 60s and early 70s – the days of Bonnie and Clyde and Straw Dogs.
This adaptation of a 1952 Jim Thompson novel stars Casey Affleck – in a role that was once eyed for Marlon Brando, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt at different stages in film history – as an apparent, though more apologetic, ancestor of American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman. After an ultra cool (and very 70s) opening credits sequence, we jump headlong into the planning stages of what is a small town head honcho’s attempt to maintain his good name. Affleck, a deputy sheriff, is given the unenviable task of dismissing a prostitute (Jessica Alba) from the city limits. She’s being paid frequent visits by said big wig’s son, and daddy’s offering her $10,000 to skip town.
Naturally, things don’t go exactly as planned. This is film noir, after all. Alba’s considerable charms – coupled with the fact that $10,000 went much farther in the 50s than it does now – entice Affleck into a passionate and violent love affair, and the two make their own plans to cash in on the money and run away together. This planning sequence, jerking us from meetings with a number of different characters, most of which are named Joe, Johnnie, Bob and the like, is quite jumpy but the rest is all gravy once you make it through that.
The psychotic side of the low affect Affleck (phew, say that three times fast) is apparent from the start, but he takes it to another level come time for the cash exchange by committing a crime that no one in town suspects him of. Well, at first. As more details come out, director Michael Winterbottom (Wonderland) manages to put together some very well staged confrontations between Affleck and those who may be on to him. The suspicious include Affleck’s girlfriend (an underdeveloped Kate Hudson) and a few fellow officers, played by Simon Baker and the always fantastic Elias Koteas.
It’s in these often darkly funny exchanges that Winterbottom is most successful, creating intensity out of subtlety. To think, this is a project that was once attached to Quentin Tarantino. Winterbottom isn’t a star director, but the film is almost better because of it. His restrained style doesn’t bombard us with flashy auteurism, instead making way for these exceptional performers – most notably Affleck – to act out every nuance in this incredibly gripping story.
Note: The Killer Inside Me gets a limited theatrical release on June, 18, 2010, but IFC has currently made it available from Comcast On Demand.
RIYL: No Country for Old Men, Days of Heaven, Down in the Valley.