I love the fifties. Not the whole backwards, racist, sexist, everythingphobic aspect of it, of course, but purely the visuals; the way all the buildings looked, the way everyone dressed, the way all men wore hats and doffed them, leading me to use words like “doff”. If I had more motivation and money, I’d recreate my entire home and self into 1950s style, tripping along in slinky twin-sets with heels and a bouffant, and wallpapering every flat surface in the house, like the television. And whoever styled The Killer Inside Me, the 2010 adaptation of the 1952 book by Jim Thompson, did an absolutely beautiful job; everyone and everything is picture perfect and convincing, like you could drive into a West Texas town right now and find everything just as it was in the film.
And thus ends my compliments of The Killer Inside Me. This has been a controversial film due to the violence towards women; but, as has been pointed out by many, it’s not at all the most violent movie I’ve seen, towards women or anyone else. I also believe that when people clutch at their pearls and tell you, “It’s the most violent thing you’ll ever see!” you will immediately imagine something much, much worse than what will happen.
Lou Ford (a high-pitched Casey Affleck) is a small-town sheriff who wanders about the place in a big hat appeasing everyone he can. But his bland persona hides a much more unhinged personality, and when a trip to prostitute Joyce (Jessica Alba) to move her along turns into unbridled violence, then heightened passion, the viewer discovers that he is a very bad man. Despite dating local lovely Amy Stanton (Kate Hudson, surprisingly not blonde), he begins a relationship with Joyce that ends when, after a double-cross they planned on a local developer turns into a triple-cross with the joke on Joyce, he beats her mercilessly, with the movie camera there to witness it relentlessly. Thinking he has gotten away with her murder, Lou coasts through the town, not realising that people have their suspicions.
The book has been lauded and is probably very good. A film was made in 1976 and is supposed to be a bit average. This film is annoying. Now, I’ll leave a movie observing it on the surface: was it entertaining? Did I want to go to sleep? After a while I will muse on it, and Chris, who will see symbolism all over the place, will pepper me with questions until we have maybe worked out if there was some kind of deeper purpose. If a movie is both superficially and metaphorically excellent, then that’s a win for that movie. When we walked out of the cinema after seeing this, I said, “What was the point again?” and Chris said, “Well, maybe it was about...no, I don’t think so. Perhaps...no, not that either.” I just don’t understand why it was made. It was attractive, but I just didn’t care about what was happening on the screen in front of me.
We considered a few things that, having read a blurb, you might think were the point of the movie. Are we desensitised to violence? Well, seeing that many have walked out of screenings, I’d guess at no. Does it speak about the lack of emotion regarding violence towards women in ye olde ’50s? No, everyone is horrified in the film. Is it pointing out how if you’re nice enough on the surface, no one will ever suspect you? Nup, many are suspicious straight away. Are women shown as being inferior? Well, the whole film is supposed to be from Lou’s skewed perspective—he narrates it and is in almost if not every scene—and while Joyce makes an odd decision in staying with him (I’d guess she does it to save her business, not that it’s touched on) Amy is still brave, strong-willed and observant.
Perhaps the plotline would have been better suited to an episode of Law & Order: SVU, because then we’d at least have been able to see Christopher Meloni furrowing his eyebrows and Mariska Hargitay raising hers. It wasn’t nearly interesting enough to watch over an hour and a half; someone committed a crime, did his best to evade authorities, who did their best to find him. The character development between key characters was shameful; the relationship between Lou and Joyce was explained only in soundless montages, and makes no sense. He goes in, they fight verbally, he beats her, they have sex, then suddenly we flash to them laughing and joking and talking into the night and having lots and lots and lots more sex (seriously, I could barely eat my popcorn for all the bonkings and beatings in this film) but you never find out at all what they talk about, why they both declare their love for one another, or why they are in any way attracted to each other. Maybe a couple of the minutes that they spent on high-billed but blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Bill Pullman could have been spent having Lou say, “You know, I really like ice cream” and Joyce replying, “Oh my god, I totally love ice cream also!” and then we could assume that their relationship was based on iced dairy product admiration or something. They should have asked me to work on the script, obviously.
The acting is all fine. Alba is suitably depressing as Joyce, who still reaches pitifully out for Lou even as he punches her; Hudson is all cigarette-holding sass as Amy. Simon Baker doesn’t even bother changing his Mentalist accent or hairstyle to play investigator Howard Hendricks. Elias Koteas is excellent as slightly pointless insurance man Joe Rothman, and since I found out that he played Casey in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie I totally adored on VHS when I was a kid, I’ll forgive him anything. Ned Beatty was spot on old-and-mopey as Lou’s adoring boss, Chester Conway, though remains a bit terrifying after voicing Lotso Huggin Bear in Toy Story 3. Casey Affleck, well, I’m still unsure about him. He wasn’t charming enough to carry the movie, but I’m not sure if it’s his fault, or director Michael Winterbottom’s fault, or Jim Thompson’s fault fifty-eight years ago. Or mine for seeing that instead of Step Up 3D.
In summary: Below Expectations, but I’d read the book.