NZIFF ’10: The Killer Inside Me

nziff ’10: The Killer Inside Me
Dir. Michael Winterbottom | USA | 2010 | 120 mins.

In his hyper-violent adaptation of Jim Thompson’s 1952 pulp fiction of the same name, inconsistent British “auteur” Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Road to Guantanamo) gets the tone pretty much right, but misses something in the characterisation of the protagonist. Stanley Kubrick called the novel, which has now been filmed twice, “probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally-warped mind [he had] ever encountered.” Casey Affleck delivers a bravura performance (though he’s not quite as good here as he was in The Assassination of Jesse James) in the lead role as a West-Texas-Deputy-Sheriff-cum-psychotic-homicidal-maniac with a penchant for bdsm.

Jessica Alba plays a prostitute, and, alarmingly, actually manages to be quite affecting. Bizarrely, the film obscures a crucial element of the novel: a plot detail that neatly explains the protagonist’s perverted state of mind and fills in something of the character’s back-story. (If you’re intrigued, and don’t mind potentially spoiling the film, it’s recounted at the start of what is currently the second paragraph of the ‘Plot summary’ section of the novel’s Wikipedia article.) The deliberate obfuscation of this detail reads more like an omission, and the film thus boils down to little more than an over-long, patchily-edited self-indulgent exercise in stylised violence.

The Killer Inside Me will almost certainly be re-released at Rialto and similar cinemas.