October issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 14 years ago

Sexist, misogynistic and sadistic are just a few of the words that were used to describe The Killer Inside Me — the audience at the Sundance Film Festival were clearly outraged. Despite evoking strong opinions and reactions, this action-thriller is unapologetic of its graphic content. Movie-goers with a weak stomach, take caution. This gory story is based on American writer Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel, a monologue from inside the mind of a serial killer, Lou Ford.

Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) listens to classical music and reads Freud, but no, before you jump to any conclusions, he is nothing like Hannibal Lecter. This baby-faced Mamma’s boy is your polite and “upstanding” local Sheriff and there are many in his small town in Texas that would attest to his innocence and moral compass, including his fiancee, the well-reputed Amy Stanton (Kate Hudson). Texas in 1958 is in the midst of the oil boom, and corruption is seeping into this hillbilly town and its naïve, almost stupid inhabitants. Commissioned by Chester Conway (Ned Beatty), a construction mogul and a celebrity in the area, Ford has to run a prostitute (Jessica Alba) out of town. Conway’s son is involved with this prostitute, and when Ford meets her, their masochistic and erotic affair begins.

Casey Affleck, with his moon face and doe eyes, plays the role of Ford with the ingenuity of a chameleon. Brother of Ben Affleck, he has also starred in the Oscar-nominated role in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Gone Baby Gone. Some have described his performance in The Killer Inside Me as flat, but it is his quiet demeanour and affable nature that leaves one in shock when he first calmly stubs a cigar out into the hands of a homeless beggar. Affleck’s stellar performance manages to capture all aspects of the multidimensional psycho killer. In conversation with his friend in jail, Lou says, “I guess I kind of got foot on both fences, Johnnie. I planted ’em there early and now they’ve taken root, and I can’t move either way and I can’t jump. All I can do is wait until I split, right down the middle,” revealing that his abusive tendencies are well out of his control. Jessica Alba in the role of Lakeland is brilliant. She has managed to capture both the erotic appeal of her character and the illogical, almost mad and desperate love of a prostitute.

The writer John Curran cannot be credited with the same praise as the actors, since the storytelling was confusing. The star of the hit TV series The Mentalist, Simon Baker, plays the role of Howard Hendricks, the district attorney who suspects Ford of the murders from the very beginning. Hendricks suddenly appears from nowhere in the movie, although he plays the central role in the investigation of the murder. It is unclear where the union official, played by Elias Koteas, fits in. The scenes come abruptly and it is difficult to follow the storyline, especially for those who have not read the book or seen earlier remakes.

Some have accused director Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart) of being sexist or a hater of women, but this movie reflects not Winterbottom’s views, but those of a serial killer. When Lou Ford says in the very beginning, “Everyone thinks they know you just because they grew up with you,” it reminds one of the Austrian incestuous monster, Josef Fritzl, who raped his own daughter and kept her locked up in his basement for 24 years without even the slightest suspicion from his community. Maybe Winterbottom is reminding us, with a deep-seated pessimism, that hate and abuse by men are very real dangers in society today. The journey through the mind and the thought process of Lou Ford reminds us of the dark truth of what human beings are actually capable of. The complexities of character leave us stunned at our inability to chalk out right from wrong as a majority of reviewers say they saw themselves sympathising with Ford and sometimes even siding with him.

This review originally appeared in the October print version of Newsline under the title “Gore Galore.”

Maheen Bashir Adamjee is an APNS award-winning journalist. She was an editorial assistant at Newsline from 2010-2011.