It was just another call out for smalltown cop Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), ordered to go to a house on the edge of town and investigate reports of a prostitute working from her home there. He drove out, knocked on the door, and was invited in as Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba) thought he was another client, but soon he was telling her they had had complaints and she should consider moving on. However, she lost her temper with him and started to hit him, whereupon he started to hit her back, yanked down her drawers and spanked her violently. Which sparked her downfall and his...
Jim Thompson's novel The Killer Inside Me had been adapted before, with Stacy Keach in the role of the psychopathic lawman who everyone in the community believes is a nice guy. That effort had been set in the seventies when the film was made, but for this adaptation director Michael Winterbottom had opted to set the story in the fifties period, which made for some sleek imagery, something the first version could not claim to have had. What it did have was a fine performance from Keach at its centre, and in a way if that had been transplanted to the newer incarnation then you might have ended up with a better film overall.
It's not that Affleck was bad, it's simply that he was miscast; you could accept that his Lou was a mild-mannered deputy sheriff, but the idea that he was harbouring depraved tendencies was somewhat harder to swallow, and with his lack of physical presence and high, cracked voice, he was not the most convincing of movie madmen. Backing him up was a pretty decent cast, from seasoned character actors in almost every role to two leading ladies trying something grimmer on for size. Alba acquitted herself very well, even if she was probably too beautiful for the role, yet convinced in other ways, and as the other woman in Lou's life, Kate Hudson was equally, tragically complex as Amy.
Ah, tragically, as here was the sticking point for many viewers, and the source of controversy when the film was released: the beatings the female characters received. They were right out of the book, but perhaps seeing actresses more familiar from frothy romantic comedies having the living daylights smashed out of them was more unsettling than the filmmakers realised, hence the movie was lambasted in some quarters. When a vintage novel is brought to the screen, it could be that those doing the bringing find themselves wrapped up in a bubble of the world that the story takes place in, so where they see a plot twist or a thriller sequence, there will be those who feel affronted about the brutality they are depicting.
This would be excusable to a degree if The Killer Inside Me 2010 operated on the level of a pulse-pounding thriller, but you can feel the film allowing its narrative to run away with it as Lou is gradually embroiled in a scheme that is not lucidly portrayed on the screen. Part of this could be down to the amount of mumbling the male actors took part in, as whole scenes went by without making much of an impression due mostly to the performers themselves not doing much to bring the dialogue to life, content to apply their best Southern drawl to major points that should have been made to stand out more clearly. Lou is in the middle of blackmail, murder and dubious sexual practices, but what Winterbottom makes you think is that he's trying to excuse him thanks to the flashbacks to Lou's abusive childhood, though with Affleck's lack of charisma, never mind sympathy, this is a fatal error: it's no wonder so few responded as the filmmakers hoped they would. Music by Joel Cadbury and Melissa Parmenter.