Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Killer Inside Me

Based on the novel by Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me is the story of a sociopath deputy sheriff whose good-natured persona is a cover for a sinister one as he has a very troubled affair with a hooker that would lead to all sorts of trouble. Directed by Michael Winterbottom and screenplay by John Curran, the film is an exploration into the mind of a man carrying a very dark, troubled mind. Starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty, Tom Bower, Simon Baker, Elias Koteas, and Bill Pullman. The Killer Inside Me for all of its entrancing approach to suspense falls flat due to some very convoluted ideas.

After being asked by superior in Sheriff Bob Maples (Tom Bower) and a construction tycoon named Chester Conway (Ned Beatty), deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) deals with a prostitute named Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba) who is having an affair with Conway’s son Elmer (Jay R. Ferguson). Yet, Lou would have a sadomasochistic affair with Joyce while having a relationship with local schoolteacher Amy Stanton (Kate Hudson). With Conway wanting Joyce out of town, she and Lou devise a plan to extort Conway as Conway and Maples agree to the payoff. Yet, Lou would do something that would change everything that would have him risk his reputation as a law-abiding officer.

While District Attorney Howard Hendricks and a local journalist named Joe Rothman (Elias Koteas) suspect Lou. There isn’t a lot of evidence about Lou though Joe knows a lot about Lou’s troubled childhood where he suggests to Lou that he should leave town. After a suspect in a young local teen named Johnnie Papas (Liam Aiken) was arrested, Lou would help the kid although things start to get more grim. When Amy wants to marry him, Lou tries to aim for a normal life until a local bum (Brent Briscoe) reveal what he knows as Lou’s life starts to unravel. Even as more suspicion would arise leading to complications where Lou would face some dark truths.

The film is about a small-town deputy sheriff whose dark mind that involves an affair with a sadomasochistic-loving prostitute leads to trouble where murder, blackmail, and all sorts of mysteries would be involved. A story like this set in the 1950s and told from the perspective of its troubled protagonist would’ve a very interesting story told. However, drawn-out story lines, underwritten characters, and lots of flashback scenes about Lou’s life end up creating a story that loses its suspense as well as its impact. Screenwriter John Curran does a good job with the film’s narration and see how Lou would execute things but some of the narration goes a little overboard at times. Curran succeeds in exploring Lou’s mind and motivation but he doesn’t do enough to make the suspense be more surprising.

Director Michael Winterbottom does a superb job in re-creating the look of 1950s Texas, though it’s shot in New Mexico, while utilizing some very entrancing compositions of the locations as well creating wonderful shots for some of the film’s dramatic moments. The problem is that he is unable to do more with the film’s script in setting up the suspense as its score would often for-tell that something is about to happen. It’s an idea that is quite clich├ęd with suspense as one would expect a director as unconventional with Winterbottom to do something different. Instead, Winterbottom chooses to play things straight while utilizing offbeat music to play up some of the darker moments. Then there’s Winterbottom’s approach to the film’s violence where it is one of the most unsettling moments of the film. It’s definitely one of the more unforgettable moments of the film but it is certainly not for everyone. Still, there’s a reason for its graphic depiction to dwell into Lou Ford’s sick mind. Despite that approach as well as other moments in the film, Winterbottom unfortunately doesn’t do more to make the film more visceral and entrancing as it could’ve been.

Cinematographer Marcel Zyskind does an excellent job with the film‘s very colorful cinematography from the sunny yet lush look of many of the film‘s daytime interior and exterior settings to more entrancing looks for some of its nighttime scenes. Editor Mags Arnold does a nice job with the editing in utilizing rhythmic cuts to play up Ford‘s troubled state of mind though there‘s parts where the pacing lags a bit due to its conventional approach to suspense. Production designers Rob Simons and Mark Tildesley, along with set decorator Jeanne Scott, do great work with the look of Ford‘s lavish home as well as the look of the cars and appliances of that period.

Costume designer Lynette Meyer does a wonderful job with the costumes in the design of 1950s clothing that the women wear from the more conservative dresses of Amy to the more stylish look of Joyce. The visual effects by Mark Knapton and Gus Martinez do some work in the film‘s lone visual effects scene towards the end of the film where the results aren‘t very good. Sound editor Joakim Sundstrom does terrific work with the sound to create tension in some of the film’s chilling moments as well as quieter ones such as Ford’s conversation with Johnnie Papas.

The film’s score by Melissa Parmenter and Joel Cadbury is pretty good for its low-key orchestral score though at times, it is used to help set up the suspense which only makes things seem more predictable. Music supervisor Chadwick Brown provides a nice soundtrack of country, blues, and ragtime music of the 1950s though some of the way is used was very misguided.

The casting by J.C. Cantu and Mary Vernieu is terrific for the ensemble that is created as it includes notable small roles from Liam Aiken as the young accused teen Johnnie Papas, Jay R. Ferguson as Chester’s playful son Elmer, Brent Briscoe as the mysterious bum who tries to blackmail Lou, Elias Koteas as a sympathetic journalist who tries to help Lou get out of town, and Bill Pullman as an attorney who shows up late in the film despite a very bad and over-the-top performance when he first appears in the film. Tom Bower is very good as Lou’s chief Bob Maples whose love for Lou starts to fall apart once Lou becomes a suspect as he tries to cope with it. Simon Baker is excellent as the cunning D.A. Howard Hendricks who tries to push Tom’s button’s any way he can. Ned Beatty is superb as the smarmy Chester Conway who tries to get Lou to buy out Joyce.

Jessica Alba gives a pretty decent performance as the submissive hooker Joyce who falls for Lou where Alba has a nice screen presence although she gives a very awkward performance in the film’s heavier moments. Kate Hudson is horrible as Lou’s girlfriend Amy where it’s not just that the character is underwritten but Hudson’s performance is at times over-the-top or underperformed where she seems to be sleepwalking through the role. Finally, there’s Casey Affleck in a tremendous performance as the chilling Lou Ford where Affleck brings a wonderful charm to his character that is balanced by a very dark demeanor. It’s definitely a very entrancing performance by Affleck who definitely has the right touches to play this character.

For all of its ambition and emphasis to explore the dark mind of a troubled man, The Killer Inside Me is a truly lackluster film from Michael Winterbottom. Despite Casey Affleck’s performance and some fantastic moments in the direction, the film falls short in terms of building up its suspense as well as trying to draw-up too many things about the Lou Ford character. For fans of Michael Winterbottom, the film will serve as a letdown considering the fact that he chooses to create something more straightforward while not doing enough to make the suspense genre more intriguing. In the end, The Killer Inside Me is a very disappointing film from Michael Winterbottom.

Michael Winterbottom Films: (Rosie the Great) - (Forget About Me) - (Under the Sun) - (Love Lies Bleeding) - (Family (1993 TV film)) - (Butterfly Kiss) - (Go Now) - (Jude) - Welcome to Sarajevo - I Want You - (With or Without You (1998 film)) - Wonderland (1999 film) - The Claim - 24 Hour Party People - In This World - Code 46 - 9 Songs - Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story - The Road to Guantanamo - A Mighty Heart - Genova - The Shock Doctrine (2009 film) - The Trip (2010 film) - (Trishna) - (Everyday) - The Look of Love - (The Trip to Italy) - (The Face of An Angel)

© thevoid99 2012


David said...

Jim Thompson,I just got to know this name by watching extras from Criterion release The Killing,Kubrick asked him to write the dialogues for the film,and also,he co-wrote the screenplay of Paths of Glory,I did not know his The Killer Inside Me was made into a film though.

thevoid99 said...

There was another version made in 1976 that wasn't well-received.

This is the more well-known but considering that it's directed by Michael Winterbottom. There's certain expectations and it didn't live up to it. There's not much work made into the suspense while the end itself was just ridiculous.

I do recall that Kubrick was a fan of Thompson's work including that book. I think he would've been disappointed by the outcome of Winterbottom's film.