Based on the pulp classic by Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me finds Casey Affleck in the role of 50’s small town sheriff Lou Ford. His polite manners and boyish looks camouflage a rotten, corrupted mind. Given the assignment of running a prostitute (Jessica Alba) out of town, he instead decides to start sleeping with her, and as a result has kill half about the town.
In the book, much of the tension derives from the disparity between the sheriff’s calm first-person narrative and his vicious actions. As a reader, you are lulled off-guard by his genteel demeanor only to be sucker-punched by his sudden violence. While by no means a tasteful book, director Michael Winterbottom (24 hr Party People) seems obsessed with the source material’s violent sexuality. I counted at least five separate shots of slap-swollen buttocks and both Alba and Kate Hudson (playing the sheriff’s girlfriend) get beaten to death by Affleck. While Winterbottom and his crew re-enact these fights faithfully, their effect does not mirror that of the book.
After Affleck punches Alba in the face for what seems like an eternity, I lost interest in the fate of the protagonist. Even though the book gained notoriety through its’ matter-of-fact treatment of lurid subject matters, the film would have been better served by a bit of discretion. Thompson would give the reader just enough detail to let them imagine the rest themselves. Seeing Alba’s face ground into hamburger meat is truly disturbing, and made me marvel at the onscreen treatment actresses like her and Hudson will endure to be taken seriously.
Sorry for another review that boils down to “its not as good as the book.” Popular culture is already so lurid these days that in order to shock any audience, an artist risks falling into exploitation. By bring Ford’s brutalities to life in such exhaustive detail, Winterbotton ends up glamorizes him, and undermining the film.