Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

Misogyny! Sex! Violence! Welcome to hell, ladies and gentlemen.

Michael Winterbotton's latest follows in the footsteps carved with in-yer-face controversy of his previous films. Thankfully (or, depending on your taste, unfortunately) there are no ejaculating penises in sight here. But the misery, pain, and an unapologetically pessimistic worldview in which characters get tangled up in their futile dysfunction, are still present. And they form the backbone of the 'most-controversial-film-of-the-year'.

Apparently Jessica Alba (who plays Joyce, the prostitute) walked out of its screening at this year's Sundance. Casey Affleck and Kate Hudson are conspicuously absent in its promotion. What gives? Well, two of the most difficult-to-watch murders and a character whose core is so dark it would make Stephen Hawking to re-think (once again) his theory on black holes are not your usual Summer movie ingredients now, are they? What did the Bru think of it? Yes, your in-house sicko loved every misogynistic, violent, dark, and hilarious minute of it. And here is why:

Casey Affleck does the concealed sick interior reflect on his baby face better than any actor of his generation. In fact, I will go so far as to claim that he may one day replace Anthony Perkins as the ultimate nice-looking kid that has murder in his mind. His young deputy sheriff, Lou Ford pays a visit to the aforementioned Joyce's house in the outskirts of Middletown, TX (circa 1950s) to tell her to leave their hat-tippin', M'am'in' little Texas town once and for all. After a brief verbal back-and-forth, Joyce slaps him in the face (violence against men!!!), he whips out his belt and, well, whips her bare butt until she turns around and they have passionate sex. Love at first sight, this scene reminded me of the slow-mo gang-rape that turns into a group sex in Straw Dogs (1971).

Quite how far we have come in terms of our perception of sex and violence shows that nobody even mentions this particular scene in their collective vitriol against the film, when a rape-turned-fun-times Straw Dogs was banned in half of Western World. I guess, we're OK with violence against women when the said women finally give up and fall in love with their torturer. In other words, if it ends in sex (isn't orgasm a kind of death?) it's good, but if it ends in the loss of the woman's life, it's bad. Well done, people. Really, well done.

The film progresses with a convoluted (and rather pointless) blackmail scheme, which ends up with one of the most difficult scenes I have seen in a film. Think of the opening scene in the Rectum Club in Irreversible (2002) where Vincent Cassel repeatedly hits a man in the head with a fire extinguisher until his head no longer looks like a head. This is less violent and bloody, but equally cringe-worthy. Trust me, if somebody even utters the word "why" in any context for the rest of the day, you will run out of the room screaming.

It doesn't quite end there, as there is another (admittedly less disturbing visually, but more horrifying in its narrative execution) murder. As there are two female leads (and two female-speaking parts in the entire film) I'm not really giving away who dies next, but for the sake of your fondness for ooohs and aaaahs while watching, I'll spare you the name and the circumstances.

In the second half of the film, Ford tries to conceal his involvement in the murder with little bits of narrative plants here and there. Then you start connecting the dots. Before you realize what's going to happen, it does.

There is a sick Lynchian quality to it, but it goes one more than what Lynch has ever gone before in terms of small-town psycho-scenery. Affleck's Lou is smug, calm, and irritating - it is a bravura performance from an actor that gets better with every film. Think of the scene in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) when Ford (now that's spooky!) is about to off James in his house. Remember Affleck's expression? Well, tone it down just a little bit and you have Lou Ford. Add a little bit of upbeat country music here and there and characters that were left out of No Country for Old Men (2007) and you have a great film.

Now, I have some quibbles: some of the characters, especially Simon Baker's detective, feel a little a swept under the rug. I would have liked to see somebody a little more tenacious to offset Ford's criminal genius. This goes beyond one character, though. There are two more 'villains' that threaten Ford (Ned Beatty's real-estate mogul and Elias Koteas' Union Chief), but they disappear for the most part. The justification may be that we see the events through Ford's eyes (his drawling voice-over guides us). So, this claustrophobic set-up requires that we don't get really what happens outside Ford's psyche, yet it may have made it a more accessible film.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic - the narrative structure and the narrator aren't the reasons why this film won't be seen by many. The main reason is the bloodied 'face' of Joyce as she keeps asking "Why?" as Ford punches her in the face for the 48th time. This is not an easy watch and not many people will see it for perhaps justifiable reasons, but if you like to be challenged by a a film and you are a champion of uncompromising filmmaking, then this is a real treat. If not, stay away - it's your loss.


? said...

I can almost always guess who the reviewer is by the film being reviewed. Ha.

I have to be honest, Bru. I really hate Winterbottom's films. I don't derive any entertainment from them, and they don't force me to think either. They just exist, sort of as curiosities that disappoint more than fascinate.

Yet I will see this. And I will probably not enjoy it. That's how I roll.

- Irish

The Bru said...


I'm not a huge fan of his films either - they're too cold and distant for my taste. But I thought this one was pretty special - it doesn't feel very Winterbottom-y.


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