Sundance Movie Review/Video Blog: Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me

Based on the novel by Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me tells the story of Lou Ford, an unassuming sheriff who finds himself surrounded by growing pile of murder victims. The film was directed by Michael Winterbottom, a man whose films have spanned many genres (some of which defy categorization). I was excited to see Winterbottom's take on film noir and curious about reports that the film's violence had sparked outrage among audiences. Hit the jump to hear my thoughts and to watch a video blog I did with Katey Rich from Cinemablend, in which we discuss the film.

The Killer Inside Me is a chilling, effective portrait of an amoral monster. Winterbottom has put together a well-acted, well-paced procedural that manages to thrill while still pausing occasionally to explore the psyche of its protagonist. Casey Affleck, playing a character who is essentially the opposite of who he played in Gone Baby Gone, manages to use his boyish facial features to full effect. The fact that Affleck's murderous personality is undermined by his innocent demeanor makes Winterbottom's point loud and clear: Anyone, even the most normal-looking amongst us, can have a killer inside them. If I were forced to sum up this film in one sentence, I'd say it's a little bit like No Country for Old Men told from Anton Chigurh's perspective (but without the Coens' stylistic trademarks, and with a lot more S&M).

There is a lot of onscreen violence against women in this film, more than in any other film I've ever seen. Winterbottom's intention was to tell the story from Lou's perspective, so the female-directed violence is graphic while the violence against men is muted and/or offscreen. It's a fine line between Winterbottom straddles between misogyny and art, and I'm not entirely sure he succeeds; people will undoubtedly have wildly differing opinions about the matter.

In the end, what does it all mean? We don't actually learn that much about Affleck's Lou or what motivates him to kill. But maybe that's the whole idea: that there are people whose moral compasses are irrevocably broken and who are capable of unimaginable atrocities.

If that's the case, I'm not entirely certain Winterbottom's point is one worth making, or at least, worth making in the way he chooses to go about it. But I can say that The Killer Inside Me is gripping filmmaking and a chilling glance inside the darkest parts of the human mind.

I had the chance to chat with Cinemablend's Katey Rich about the film. Suffice it to say, she did not like it very much. Kind of significant spoilers for the film follow: