The Killer Inside Me

Movie review: 'The Killer Inside Me'

"The Killer Inside Me" has a stellar cast, including Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck, but there's little else to recommend the brutal, empty drama.
"The Killer Inside Me" has a stellar cast, including Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck, but there's little else to recommend the brutal, empty drama. (Michael Muller/ifc Films)

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By Ann Hornaday
Friday, July 2, 2010

"The Killer Inside Me" made waves at Sundance earlier this year when its graphic sexual violence prompted some moviegoers to leave the theater. The filmmakers and the studio that picked it up -- coincidentally the same distributor that released last year's cinematic scandale du art house, Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" -- immediately saw a jackpot and have been milking the controversy ever since.

In reality, there's so little substance and meaning to "The Killer Inside Me," adapted from Jim Thompson's novel by Michael Winterbottom, that it's barely worth condemning. It joins a long line of Hollywood efforts to sell rank pulp as A-list material by way of a classy director and cast (Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson). Moreover, it represents yet another case in which filmmakers confuse sadistic nihilism with moral seriousness, an especially bedeviling affliction for writers and directors who traffic in film noir at its most stylized, mannered and intellectually empty.

Affleck plays Lou Ford, a 1950s deputy sheriff who begins seeing a prostitute named Joyce Lakeland (Alba) while hiding a dark secret that is utterly at odds with his family's spotless reputation and his own easygoing demeanor. As a study in frontier codes and mores, "The Killer Inside Me" occasionally resembles the far better 1993 film "Red Rock West." As a determined attempt to make a psychopath the least bit interesting, it's in a league with "No Country for Old Men," which for all its popularity and Oscar glory, was still monotonously cruel and shallow. While not quite as draped in literary provenance, "The Killer Inside Me" joins "No Country" as well-made, well-acted, carefully composed bullpucky.

As for the misogynist brutality, it is indeed depraved, made more so by the fact that its female victims are depicted as loving their abuse right up until it turns murderous. But make no mistake: Women aren't the only targets of the character's sadistic yen. They're just the most fetishized in a film that reduces everything and everyone in its well-worn path to a pretentious trope and, in its final Grand Guignol moments, high camp.

* R. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Contains disturbing brutal violence, aberrant sexual content and graphic nudity. 109 minutes.


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