Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010) Searingly sordid film noir that only reinforces what film noir truly is, rather than merely high-contrast photography and light bleeding through venetian blinds.  Film noir is evil breaking the rules of polite society...any rules... and The Killer Inside Me goes beyond it to even breaking the rules of film noir—nothing is sacred, not even that all-consuming reson d'etre that makes up the twisted spine of plots and double-crosses of film noir—love in the wolf's clothing as lustTrue merciless Sociopathy—the psychopathic disregard of everything—knows no boundaries, has no sweethearts, and at the end, may have no reason at the heart of it. 

Because there is no heart.

Deputy Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is assigned a bull-shit job in the department: the scion of a big construction contractor is seeing a prostitute on the edge of town, and Daddy wants her gone.  Lou should pay her a visit, be polite, but suggest that her presence is not appreciated and she should look to relocating her cottage-industry.  Doesn't go that way, though.  When Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba) opens the door, sparks fly.  And they're not good sparks.  He's attracted to her but he's got a job to do.  She's attracted to him but she's got a job to do.  He insists.  She deflects.  Then she starts throwing punches.

It's love at first fight.  And before the story ends, Ford will follow a twisted path to revenge with maximum collateral damage, culminating in the type of eruptive fulmination that has precedence in such noir films as White Heat and Kiss Me Deadly.  It's not the "safe" bad manners of the vast majority of noir films but treads along the (hopefully) abandoned railroad tracks at the edge of the worst of human behavior and, without a thought, crosses over—the type of evil that noir wanna-bes like Frank Miller's Sin City only aspire to, but can only reach by rathcheting up the carnage.  Body counts don't count, not if you want to reach the tortured, torturing depths of a writer like Jim Thompson, the author of "The Killer Inside Me."

Thompson was a pulp-writer who used a typewriter as a blunt instrument, and his style so direct that Stanley Kubrick regularly hired him in his early directing career (working on The Killing and Paths of Glory), probably for that quality that Stephen King describes: "Big Jim didn't know the meaning of the word stop. There are three brave lets inherent in the forgoing: he let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it."  Such naked lack of self-censorship is at the nuclear core of Thompson's writing—a brave, maybe fool-hardy ability to go there.

So, The Killer Inside Me, with killer instincts towards thoughtless violence (against men...and—especially—women, who, traditionally in noirs, are dispatched with a single, sanitarily unseen gun-shot) will not be everyone's cup of razor blades.*  It's shocking, unholy, and (hopefully) repulsive to the viewer.  But, it plumbs the depths of the abyss to see just how black noir can be. 

* I spent the end of last year waiting for it to make it to theaters.  Never did.  Instead, I first encountered it on the shelf at Blockbuster.  The film is just too rough and dark to make a profit in a theater-run.

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