Do you hate Jessica Alba? Would you like to see Casey Affleck punch her face in, in excruciating close-up? How about Kate Hudson? Would seeing her spat on and slammed in the gut make your day? If so, The Killer Inside Me is the movie for you.
Michael Winterbottom directed. He’s done the provocateur bit before, most recently in the sex, drugs and rock & roll extravaganza 9 Songs. That movie benefited from not even pretending to have a plot, just concert footage and porn-grade explicit sex.
But The Killer Inside Me’s barely comprehensible narrative and weak homage to film noir style and duplicity add insult to the injury of cringe-inducing gratuitous violence—and I’m no prude when it comes to gruesome movies—and almost laughably flat performances from everyone but Affleck, whose lack of affect is the point of the role, and a handful of supporting players.
Affleck plays Lou Ford, a Texas sheriff embroiled in some lame-brained scheme involving a prostitute named Joyce Lakeland (Alba) engaged to the son of a wealthy businessman Ford believes covered up the murder of his pedophile brother. Or something like that. At the same time, he’s seeing Amy Stanton (Hudson, yawnerrific as usual), who slowly catches on to his infidelity and homicidal rage.
But none of that is really important. It doesn’t take a Smith women’s studies alum to figure out that misogyny is Winterbottom’s bottom line. Other directors have dwelled on violence for reasons meta and academic (Michael Haneke) or authentically, if not manipulatively, subversive (Gaspar Noé).
But the degrading onslaught in The Killer Inside Me—rape, one-sided rough sex, beatings and stabbings—is aimed exclusively and protractedly at the female characters, none of whom are good for anything other than being a romantic foil, a punching bag, or a corrupting Eve figure.
There’s no mystery for the audience to uncover or twist to jolt them awake. And pretty much everyone else in the movie is onto Ford from the get-go. So what’s the point? By the movie’s ridiculous conclusion, I was sure Winterbottom had made a parody of noir excess and Texas good old boy culture. But the only laughs I heard in the theater were unintended, inspired by John Curran’s clunky screenplay.
Audience chuckles aside, the joke’s on us.