The Killer Inside Me
Part of me wants to kill her … another part wants something else entirely.

Theatrical Release Date: 07/02/2010
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas, Tom Bower, Simon Baker, Bill Pullman, Jay R. Ferguson

Jim Thompson is a celebrated pulp crime novelist. His works have often been translated to the silver screen, most notably with “After Dark, My Sweet”, “The Getaway” and “The Grifters”. In “The Killer Inside Me”, 1950s small town deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) has a host of shadowy elements in his psyche and becomes entangled with a prostitute (Jessica Alba) whose blackmail scheme propels him into committing a series of murders in order to cover things up.

From a plot perspective, it’s not necessarily anything too surprising although the frank and brutal violence, especially against women, has created a small bit of controversy around the project. However, while the deeds themselves may be shocking to some, the purpose of the film is to highlight the mental state of deputy sheriff Ford.

There’s a shiftiness to how Affleck plays the character that’s meant to make the character arc work as we see that there’s the possibility of something different inside this mild mannered, well groomed facade. The goal is for his emerging sociopathy to erupts from beneath the outwardly innocent-looking man and make us believe that the killer and his other self are perceived as two different entities by Ford himself.

Sadly, Affleck just doesn’t quite pull this off. The role requires that we buy his nice side at the beginning, making the juxtaposition of his dark side all the more disturbing. Now, I don’t think Ben’s little brother is a sociopath but his line deliveries and overall demeanor lend themselves much better to roles where the character is on the edge of something, at best hopeful and eager but never quite innocent in the way this role requires.

The rest of the cast fill in their roles with serviceable performances but it all feels like a stock set of archetypes. It was as if director Michael Winterbottom had seen a few Westerns and 50s films about Texas small town life, only to regurgitate those images using Thompson’s material as the basis for the script.

The problem therein is that the source material wasn’t concerned with explaining or apologizing for the violence and so neither is the film. What works in a novel doesn’t always work on screen and that seems to be the case here. Ultimately, I was left non-plussed and disinterested in the resolution of events that transpired so I can only give “The Killer Inside Me” a 2.5 out of 5.

It’s another dark role for Casey Affleck and fans of his may admire his performance but it’s not the sort of character one wants to find charming. Aside from great lovers of Thompson’s work looking to see how one of his most celebrated novels fares on the big screen, I’m not sure exactly who I could recommend the film to. And for those who want to comb DVD archives, there’s a 1976 film adapted from the same novel with Stacy Keach in the lead role. Possible double feature fun for those who are so inclined.