The Killer Inside Me
If Patrick Bateman Were a Deputy…
Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba
By Robert Patrick
Lou Ford tips his hat, as if to drain water from the brim, every time he meets someone. Ford is a deputy sheriff whose compact structure and waxy grin make him a seemingly generic authority figure in a small Texas town. But underneath his sheath of southern pleasantries and congenial mannerisms lies a man who has the moral compass of a rattlesnake. Ford is without conscience, heart, nobility.
You don’t have to have a likeable character for a movie to work; you only have to have an interesting one. And Lou Ford, the sociopath whose steely, unaffected smirk looks carved out of sandstone should be a chilling character study. Instead, because of director Michael Winterbottom’s macabre sideshows of syrupy violence and sexualized cruelty, any sort of interesting acting has been overshadowed by the movie’s off-putting fascination with loud, vehement abuse towards women. Does the violence need to exist in the movie? My answer is a definitive yes. Without the seemingly coy nature of Ford being thunderously split open by unhinged malevolence, it would not work – this is obvious. What makes Winterbottom’s directing so obnoxious and unwatchable is the way it goes about showing the gruesome scenes. The violence in the movie is supposed to be deplorable, but the way in which its shown makes it seem like the crew is having more fun showing the scenes of brutality than it is in sadly observing them. The sequence in which Joyce, a prostitute in the film, is tenderized with the deliberate authority of Ford’s fists isn’t seen so much as felt, with each fist landing not with the repetitiousness of machinegun fire, but instead with the slow, savory pummeling of a sledgehammer. I think its relatively simple to obtain a level of disdain for Lou’s sadistic temperament without having to show, ever so lovingly, prolonged misogyny. I haven’t been this offended by a movie once – ever.
And all of this is terribly unfortunate, because Casey Affleck’s a fine choice to embody the cool detachment of Ford. Affleck’s forever adolescent face, matched with a wispy voice that almost creaks like the floorboards of an old house, makes him a dubious candidate for innocuous good or unabridged evil. To me, it’s absolutely clear why Winterbottom wanted Affleck to play Ford. There is a sort of strange boyishness to his smile that looks like it could be easily sculpted, if only slightly manipulated, to a faint curl of pure hellishness – the malleability is evident in those features. And sometimes, even with all of the sticky distraction of perverse violence in the film, Affleck gets to be the showman that he is. There are scenes in this film that have his eyes push off into deranged waters.
The other players in the film are effortlessly threaded into the story; even though when Jessica Alba first appears, puckering her lips and matting her hair down like it was the fur of an unkempt cat, you sort of wish she hadn’t been propositioned for the film. Kate Hudson, on the other hand, slides her hands into the gloves of Amy Stanton, Ford’s girlfriend, with ease and confidence. I’m glad she took this role, as it almost molted my memory of her in last year’s atrocious “Nine.”
Ian Forbes, a fellow critic in the San Diego Film Critics Society, told me that he could see the good stuff trying to unearth itself in the film. I have a strange affinity for this notion, considering the story has a concentration of acute strangeness and curiously interesting subject matter. Written by Jim Thompson in 1952, the novel was seeped in noir sensibilities. Maybe it would’ve worked better here, in a more chilling way, if the movie had adapted the same format. Instead, there is no mood at all “The Killer Inside Me,” only the viciousness and exploitation of the source material.
Here’s all you need to know about Lou Ford: he’s reprehensible, he’s a monster, he’s venomous and diabolical. Okay, now that that’s established, you can skip this one and save yourself from the sliminess that finds itself lacquered all over the film.