Should start by saying that this review gets a little spoilery so yeah, don’t read if you don’t wanna know what happens.
Ever wonder if some movie review critics know the first thing about the art of cinema? I know I have. You only have to read one of Armond Whites reviews on The New Press website to find that question popping up in your head. The Killer Inside me is one of those films that divided critics and in doing so expose the one that (As Stephen Dalton of The Times put it) “have made the classic mistake of confusing content for intent”. The Killer Inside me is at times brutally violent, mostly towards women, but there’s good reason for this and I shall try me best to explain.
The Killer Inside Me is based on the novel of the same name by Jim Thompson and tells the story of a young small town Deputy Sheriff by the name of Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) who appears to be the model representation of a lawman. He helps local people, is polite to everyone he meets… oh and he’s a sociopath… I should probably say that last ones not a common trait of a police officer.
Anyway, he meets prostitute called Joyce Lakeland and starts to have an affair with her. Joyce is involved with a local property developer’s son (Elmer Conway) who also happens to be a friend of Lous. Elmer’s father Chester (Ned “SQUEEEEEEEEL” Beatty) asks Lou to help bribe Joyce out of town. He arranges for Elmer to deliver the bribe money to Joyce and, as any psychopath would do, Lou kills Chester and Joyce in order to hide his relationship with her from coming out. This sets into motion Lou’s attempts to deflect the eye of the law from himself and in the process he starts piling up bodies to cover his tracks.
It’s the depiction of these murders that have divided many critics. See, when a man dies in this film it’s quick, efficient and often off camera. When a woman dies in this film it is brutal, prolonged and graphic. A lot of critics have called this a bloody mess on the canvas of an otherwise beautiful film. I’d call it exactly what was needed to depict the mental state of Lou Ford. He is a pretty broken up person. Early on you learn that his brother had raped a 5 year old girl in a car Lou still keeps in his garage. Years later his brother is killed on one of Chester Conway’s constructions in a manner that could be seen as suspect. Lou has a reason for some form of revenge on the Conway family. There is a reveal later, very briefly, that spins the relationship between Lou and his brother around making you really see how far back Lou’s depravity goes. One of those moments where you realise that Lou could have been stopped years ago. You learn how he came to be in a relationship with his girlfriend Amy (Kate Hudson) and where his violent sexual tendencies came from.Watching the roots of his mental sickness unfold is a gripping thing to watch. It makes the brutality of his attack on Joyce even more potent as you realise the reason it was lingered on so much is because this is Lou telling the story and he wanted you to see it that way. He narrates the entire film and so you see the parts he cares about. The narration and the character share similarities with Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter and I would suspect that The Killer Inside Me novel was quite an influence on him.
Some people when watching a film see what is on the screen and either assume it is what it is or that it’s the directors voice coming through. Just because a director depicts violent acts against women on screen doesn’t mean that he secretly wants to see those acts unfold. Any scene in a film that makes you feel uncomfortable should do so because it is the intention of the director to make you feel that way. In the case of this film the brutality against women is there to stop you getting behind Lou’s character and to let you inside his head. There’s a reason Dexter has a code and that’s because you are meant to like him. Lou doesn’t have a code, he is disturbed man who doesn’t put value on anyone’s life and enjoys hurting women. His girlfriend Amy is, luckily for Lou I guess, into being spanked an beaten. Later on the calmness with which Lou kills Amy and frames another man for her death just shows how willing he is to sacrifice anyone for his freedom.
All the while you are watching a man who through his own lies, deceptions and evil doings has the walls of a prison cell moving in around him. He gradually gains more confidence believing himself to be untouchable while gradually the amount of people who can see through his lies mounts up. It’s a well executed story that makes sure that while you never root for Lou you are interested in watching his tale unfold in all it’s grisly fatalism.
Performances are strong throughout with everyone doing their best Texan accent. Casey Affleck is of considerable note as he pulls off the sort of performance that makes you realise that the only thing stopping him from being more successful than his brother is that Hollywood jawline of Ben’s. Jessica Alba does a good job for all the scenes she’s in and for those that would want to know, arse, sideboob and underboob. Cos there’s people out there wondering.
There’s little to really fault this film on. It’s shot very well and at no point relies on showboaty camera work or other such camera trickery. There is one stunt when Lou is beating Joyce that feels a little out of place where she’s hit hard enough to fly back 4ft into the wall but it’s not enough to take you out of the film. I honestly think if a critic failed to understand the purpose of the violence in this film then they missed the point. The content is violent and brutal, the intent is insightful and the key.