2010 Certificate: 18

Synopsis

Michael Winterbottom directs this bruising adaptation of Jim Thomson's 1952 noir page-burner. Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a pillar of the community in his small Texas town. Some people think he's a little slow and maybe boring, but that's the worst they say about him. But then nobody knows about what Lou calls his "sickness": he is a serial killer. It nearly got him put away when he was younger, but his adopted brother took the rap for his crimes. But now the sickness that has been lying dormant for years is about to surface again and the consequences are brutal and devastating.

Director

  • Michael Winterbottom

Cast

  • Casey Affleck

  • Jessica Alba

  • Kate Hudson

  • Ned Beatty

  • Elias Koteas

Review

The term 'uncompromising' is bandied about fairly liberally in your average movie review.

Michael Winterbottom's traditionally risque content has always been anything but controversially shy (9 Songs, The Road To Guantanamo), but The Killer Inside Me is guaranteed to go down as one of the most unflinching, brutal and - you guessed it - uncompromising of his career.

This S&M neo-noir crime flick is based on iconic pulp fiction novelist Jim Thompson's tale of the same name, charting the deeply disturbed secrets behind small town West Texas deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Affleck).

Babyfaced and quietly charming to boot, Lou's softly-spoken demeanour hides a twisted psychotic lurking beneath the surface.

When he's tasked with moving on town prostitute Joyce (Alba) to save the hide of the local oil merchant Chester Conway (Beatty), a violently charged sexual encounter begins stirring up childhood memories troubled enough to leave even Freud scarred for life.

As Lou's increasingly deranged urges bleed out into his regular life, he's left on a dark, twisted path into the recesses of his own psyche by way of some truly brutal, revelatory beatings along the way.

Undeniably faithful to the novel, Winterbottom's direction gives us a tantalising glimpse into Lou's mindset, but it's a story fundamentally about the absence of rationality - while you can psychoanalyse, Lou's destructive streak is mindless - he abuses the ones he loves for hardly any reason at all. And it's all the scarier for it.

Incremental in sucking you in is Affleck, with a truly chilling performance that ranks up there with the Patrick Batemans and Norman Bateses of the movie world, while Alba and Kate Hudson (as Lou's long term girlfriend) entrance with memorable, resolute performances despite their suffering.

Ultimately, The Killer Inside Me works and lingers with you long after, as a troubling, unsettling example of the genre at its best.

Whether your individual stomach and sensibilities last quite as long is another matter.

Matt Risley