Movie review: ‘The Killer Inside Me’ a rough slog through a dank pathological bog
As he strolls the streets of Central City in his sharp Stetson and crisp white shirts, deputy sheriff Lou Ford projects an image mildly suggestive of Andy Griffith. Clean-cut, ramrod straight, soft-spoken and scrupulously pleasant, he is in the vernacular of this dusty West Texas burg a classic good ol’ boy.
But as we probe deeper beneath the surface of this rustic rube – as we detect a hard glint behind his polite “Howdy, ma’am,” as we watch him sit home nights brooding to the music of Mahler and Donizetti, as we witness the stash of pornographic photos tucked away in his Bible – it dawns on us that a terrible sickness festers beneath Lou’s calm, upright exterior.
That sickness comes to vicious, visceral fullness in “The Killer Inside Me,” director Michael Winterbottom’s bold, brazen and mightily controversial adaptation of Jim Thompson’s savage pulp novel, that teases us slyly with “Andy of Mayberry” then plunges us deeply into an “American Psycho” abyss.
Since the late Thompson was an Oklahoman and Winterbottom shot the film in and around Guthrie, Oklahoma City, Enid, Tulsa and Cordell, there’s naturally much anticipation of the release in the Sooner state. But the bleak, brutal nature of the material, as well as Winterbottom’s blunt, unflinching handling of its violence, have rendered the film a virtual orphan in Hollywood’s distribution system.
Having been roundly booed at the Sundance Film Festival and struggling to find a footing in art-house circles (it played for two weeks then quickly disappeared from New York City screens), the film has become something of a pariah. It is available in Oklahoma City only on pay-per-view TV and will run at Tulsa’s Circle Cinema starting Aug. 20.
Clearly, this is rough, disturbing material, and in the folksy, feral performance of Casey Affleck as Lou, in his sadistic-masochistic encounters with itinerate prostitute Joyce (Jessica Alba) and wholesome, hometown fiancée Amy (Kate Hudson) – both actresses plumbing some harrowing, humiliating territory – the film often feels like a very dank slog through a slough of despond.
As Lou’s violent escapades escalate – from the highly publicized pummeling to death of Joyce with his fists through more homicides, double-crosses, sexual depravity, misogyny, botched blackmail schemes – Winterbottom and screenwriter John Curran attempt to capture Thompson’s matchless gift for pitch-black wit, for sweaty prurience versus outraged moralism and for fearlessly probing evil’s most fetid recesses.
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