Sundance 2010: THE KILLER INSIDE ME Review

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Sundance 2010: THE KILLER INSIDE ME Review
[Our thanks to Ryland Aldrich for the following review.]

The buzz going into Michael Winterbottom's cowboy noir was all surrounding Casey Affleck's brutal on screen violence perpetrated against costars Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson. After viewing the film, it is easy to see why. The film is extremely graphic (reports are that Alba got up and left part way through the film's premier - reports her publicist denies). But if one can stomach the violence, the film is an impressive trip inside the mind of a mad man.

Casey Affleck plays Lou Ford, a sheriff's deputy in a small Texas town circa 1957. When the son of the town's richest man starts up an affair with a prostitute Joyce (Alba), Lou is tasked with running her right out of town. Instead he falls hard for Joyce, mostly because of the violent sex the two share.  Without much in the way of an obvious reason, Lou comes up with a plan to kill Joyce and frame the son - making it look like they killed each other. There is a small hiccup when Joyce survives - causing plenty of stress for Lou which spills over to his relationship with his girlfriend Amy (Hudson). More than that, it attracts the attention of the D.A. and sets a series of events into motion that find Lou committing more and more heinous acts to cover his trail.

Affleck puts in a stunning performance as the deranged killer. The story is told faithfully from his point of view and we feel the same shock that he does when information is revealed. Likewise, we relish in his cunning when he is able to talk his way out of another situation. This makes for a good deal of discomfort as Lou slips deeper into his illness and we want more and more to pull away. But Winterbottom keeps us right there until the end. You are going to need a stiff drink when this one is over.

Winterbottom was confronted with stern questions about his depiction of violence against women twice during the Monday morning Eccles Q&A.  His response was that he tried to stay true to Jim Thompson's 1952 novel.  He explained that this is a fictional world explored from the point of view of a crazy man and that some of the events that take place could even be happening in Lou's mind.  This reasoning may not be enough to calm what is sure to be harsh criticism.

Mention should also be made of the strong supporting cast.  Elias Koteas, Tom Bower, and Bill Pullman all give fantastic performances.  DP Marcel Zyskind's cinematography is beautiful as well.  The Killer Inside Me certainly lives up to the controversy, but it is also a very polished achievement.

[Ryland Aldrich is a screenwriter and freelance writer based in Los Angeles.  He blogs at enderzero.net]
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