The Trouble with Quibbles: The Killer Inside Me

Most movie-goers are well aware of the biggest blockbusters being released this summer, but I’m guessing few have heard about (or even heard of) the most controversial movie released this summer. The Killer Inside Me, Michael Winterbottom’s (A Mighty Heart, 24-Hour Party People, Nine Songs) faithful adaptation of the notorious Jim Thompson 1952 noir novel, caused quite a ruckus on the festival circuit this year before its theatrical release. The film and the director were both confronted with outrage and accusations of misogyny from shocked audience members and critics. Winterbottom’s depictions of Thompson’s brutal descriptions of violence are not for the faint of heart. Casey Affleck stars as Lou Ford, a West Texas Deputy Sheriff who keeps his murderous rage masked behind a well-established image of a genteel southern gentlemen. Ford is a kind of forefather to Bret Easton Ellis’ Reagan-era psycho, Patrick Bateman. Jessica Alba plays his sadomasochistic mistress, Joyce. Kate Hudson plays faithful fiance, Amy. Ford leads them on a journey into the heart of darkness and depravity as his true nature begins to seep to the surface like the oil from the depths beneath their Texas boomtown, Central City. Thompson’s story is a disturbing examination of the mind of a psychopath, which Stanley Kubrick, who collaborated with Thompson on the screenplay for The Killers, called, “the most chilling and believable first–person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered.” The film has prompted yet another discussion on the place of violence in films. So, Bryan and I decided to see what all the fuss is about. But, before I get to actual quibble, I’ll leave you with Winterbottom’s own words about the film from an interview with New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, “It’s all quite shocking; it’s supposed to be.”

AS: So, I was really excited about seeing The Killer Inside Me. The featurette I saw looked amazing. Casey Affleck seem to fit the character of Lou Ford like a glove. But, in watching the film, I found it pretty convoluted.

BP: Convoluted is not just putting it mildly, but neglecting the overall feeling of WTF!? I mean what was going on in this movie?

AS: I was easing into things.

BP: The movie sure doesn’t, why should you (ease into things)?

AS: Yeah… Idunno. A lot was going on… a lot that I just couldn’t seem to follow.

BP: I rarely ask what is going on while watching a movie, and I turned and asked you a few times. We tried to piece it all out when the movie ended, and I still don’t think we got anywhere.  That’s not something I like with my movies, no matter how indie or out there.

AS: Yeah, as much as I enjoyed parts of it, I hate that I now feel obligated to read the book in order to put everything together. It’s like they gave us part of the puzzle, but not enough to ever put it all together. However, I did like the feel of the film.

BP: See, that’s the problem, I don’t think it was meant to be a puzzle, yet here we are puzzling over it.  Anything positive that this movie had is wasted because it was conveyed poorly.

AS: Oh, for sure. I don’t think they meant for it to be so perplexing. It wasn’t a case of an ambiguous ending.

BP: Oh no, just little things like, “who is that guy?  What’s her name?  What was he just talking about?”

AS: Yeah. Throughout most of the film it felt like we’d wandered into a movie halfway through.

BP: But how about the big positive (no, not Jessica Alba being beat to a pulp), Casey Affleck giving another solid performance.

AS: He was quite good. If his psychotic sociopath hadn’t been so interesting, I don’t think I’d have made it all the way to the end.

BP: He is so good at being quiet, menacing, and yet a blank slate.  You’re never quite sure what he’s thinking and that’s scary and at some moments shocking.

AS: I think he perfectly captures the sociopathic sort of charm, where in his mind his actions are justified.

BP: But after his performance, I find it hard to say anything positive about his movie because of everything we already mentioned.

AS: I liked the look of the film.

BP: It was alright.

AS: And again, the vibe and the feel felt about right… it was just so confusing. Really, my only problem was with the poor storytelling. I thought the rest of the cast was good, too.

BP: Meh.

AS: Really? I really liked Elias Koteas, Kate Hudson, Tom Bower, and Bill Pullman… even Jessica Alba was ok. And Simon Baker.

BP: Just ok, nothing to write home about.

AS: Wah-wah…

BP: And would it kill Jessica Alba to go topless in a role that requires it for once?

AS: It just might.

BP: I might go into shock if I ever accidentally saw one of her nipples.  I mean Affleck can suck on them but god forbid the audience gets a glimpse.

AS: Are you really that desperate to see her naked?

BP: No, not at all, but she is totally a never-nude.  She keeps taking roles that require nudity (Sin City, this) and then refuses to go full monty.  It becomes distracting when you can tell they are avoiding showing something because it’s in her contract.  Like anyone keeps their arms that close to their sides while humping Casey Affleck… Some have said the violence is too much, or misogynistic, would you agree?

AS: I understand why people are saying this film is misogynistic, the victims of the most brutal violence are women, but I don’t think that the film itself is misogynistic, the character, maybe, but not the film. And as far as excessively disturbing violence, as a horrophile, I didn’t find the violence gratuitous. It’s disturbing, but it’s supposed to be disturbing. It’s not like Winterbottom is glorifying it.

BP: A little disturbing, sometimes shocking, but not as bad as some might have you think.

AS: Disturbing, yes. Shocking, definitely.

BP: I’ve seen Irreversible and this has nothing on that.  Plus, by the end, it’s a little unrealistic which brings us back to the whole WTF?! that is the whole movie. Do you have anything to say about my Alba nude comment? If not, then I will say with only Affleck’s acting to recommend I’m giving this one a… D+

AS: I don’t really have anything to add about Alba’s nudity or lack thereof. But, as confused as I was by this film, part of me still liked it. I feel like I need a second viewing to be sure, but as of now I’d say C+. I know I shouldn’t have to read the book to understand what actually did happen, but I was still intrigued in spite of my confusion.So, yeah… I want to read the book and give it another viewing, but as of now C+. Obfuscation aside, I was entertained. It had car wreck appeal… I was shocked and dismayed and confused and questioning existence and the plight of man… but I couldn’t look away.

BP: See for me, all that confusion keeps me too far at arms reach to really think about any of that other stuff. So it was all a non-starter.

AS: Yeah, see… it kinda draws me in. It’s like a puzzle, that though frustrating, is still interesting enough for me to want to solve.

BP: I didn’t want a puzzle, I wanted a character study or something other than what I got which was a headache.

AS: I didn’t want a puzzle either. I would have preferred something more along the lines of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but I wasn’t entirely disappointed… just very, very confused. I felt like Costello during the “Who’s On First” routine… Hey Abbott!

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