Dir. Michael Winterbottom. USA. 2010.

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Based on the classic novel by Jim Thompson (The Grifters), The Killer Inside Me will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray on 27 September 2010. The psycho-noir novel of The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson is available in paperback (Orion; £7.99).

DVD details:

Certificate: 18; Running Time 109 mins;   Rental Cat no:  ICON 30212; Retail Cat no: ICON10212; Rental Barcode:  5051429302126;  Retail Barcode: 5051429102122; BD Cat no ICON70212; 
BD Barcode:  5051429702214; UK SRP:  £17.99; UK BD SRP:  £17.99 
Extras: Behind the scenes, Cast interviews.

Here is Gail Spencer's review of the film:

With some irritation, serial killers in modern culture are often depicted as glamorous, intelligent, complex geniuses – but in reality, as a recent mass murder spree in the north of England proves, the reality is far different: the mundane coupled with damage - kills. ‘The Killer in Me’ although a work of fiction, looks into the world and psychology of a routine individual living within the normal social tapestry of small town America during the 1950’s. Although a work of fiction (adapted from a novel by Jim Thompson), it is closer to the likes of Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Albert de Salvo et al than say the highly elaborate Lector creation in Silence of the Lambs.  This is largely due to the fact that in making the movie, a sensible decision was made to cut out the mathematician and Wagner fancier that was Lou in the pulp paperback.

The film has plenty of flaws but carries enough fine aspects to overcome them. It has not been widely released, not in comparison to other Hollywood outings of late; however it has been met with a fair measure of controversy – not least due to the violence perpetrated against women. This is not the only noteworthy aspect. From the beginning the viewer is introduced into a period piece: the opening credits to a rendition of the song ‘Fever’ is played over sketches of landscapes of fifties Texas complete with images of the cast set against oil rigs and Buicks. Look to ‘Mad Men’ the television series about advertising executives for a close simile of the styling on offer here.

Note the music: never throughout, regardless of the dark subject matter on play is the music deliberately moroding or moody. Instead the music of the time is the soundtrack to the malevolence – which never seems hokey, trite or out of place. Only the introductory song gives insight into what is to come: we know already that this is going to be about fever, obsession, something not unusual in thriller protagonists.

The central character Lou – the murderer (Played well by Casey Affleck), provides the voiceover as intro into the world – his world where “my father was the only doctor in town” and where “a man is a man or gentleman – or nothing at all – God help you if you’re not.” What dictates manly or gentlemanly behaviour in Central City is unclear – what is though is that Lou fits into the ‘God help’ category. The pace of this piece is one of its strengths – the action starts right at the beginning and is relentless until the end, to the point that it is probable that a little more exposition to give some idea as to back story and motive would have done it and us the world of good. Ned Beatty plays the part of Chester Conway – a role that is not dissimilar to that of John Huston in Chinatown – a guy who owns the town and gets what he wants. He wants Lou – in his role as Deputy Sheriff to run a hooker (Joyce, played by Jessica Alba) out of town. She has her hooks into his son and they are planning to skip town.

The plot is dense and complex moving too fast and does seem to be trying too hard to be a noir. Upon going to see Joyce and confronting her with his wish – and that of his unofficial boss for her to pack up and leave, a bit of slap turns into intense, morbid S&M slap and tickle – the pair of them embarking on a twisted love affair. The flaw here is that the so called love between Joyce and Chester’s son diminishes into insignificance and is not talked about at all. Not until a nasty and memorable confrontation between them later when Lou is evidently labouring under a feeling of being trapped – by his geography, affections, lust, past and demons.

He also has a girlfriend, Amy – played well by a slightly plump Kate Hudson. It is only when and after he pummels Joyce’s face into ‘hamburger meat’, that this part of Lou’s life is brought to us as this and Joyce’s love are not discussed in front of us. This of course is opposite to the traditional plot feature of double crossing lovers planning murder, and or embezzlement in film noir. The now infamous scene of Joyce’s battering – as with later, Amy, although horrible and convincing played out (Jessica Alba wore a prosthetic to show a smashed nose and upper jaw), Lou (Casey Affleck) is too slight a character in build to have been able to do so much so quickly, in spite of wearing leather gloves to do so. The fact that neither of these women offer any kind of defence against him is hard to believe as they are both portrayed as confrontational and feisty. 

There is a fine supporting cast not least by Bill Pullman, the makeshift lawyer – who can only be on screen for a minute but still shines in his attitude to Lou. “A weed is a plant outta place”, “you are in my back yard – what’s your story?” It is here that we are given some but not all of Lou’s history and motives – most of this is delivered in flashback and it doesn’t help that Casey Affleck cannot speak properly. As much as the guy makes a convincing villain – and lover, he has a slurry rasp that s barely audible at times and doesn’t help with better plot understanding when it is the responsibility of his main protagonist to deliver it.
The fake set up of his killings never really hold that much sway with the townsfolk – he does try to eliminate those that are on to him and largely succeeds, but there is the burden of proof, which comes at the end and seems a bit like the ending of a Columbo episode in its delivery but with a much nastier context.

It is a mistake to see this though as a work of misogyny. Acts of violence of equal lurid detail upon and between men are everywhere, not least in Scorsese (remember Joe Pesci’s end in Casino?). We are given the counter balance of the sadomasochistic factors in his earlier family life to imply that he is the victim of learned behaviour. Moreover, Lou is cruel to all that love and trust him: his treatment of a young boy who likes and defends him is indeed just as hard to stomach as the violence, which is really expected and predictable. We are just used to seeing emotional violence more in this type of film in the noir tradition – it is neither gratuitous or out of place to depict the physical as well.
Gail Spencer
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