Sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a soft-spoken, well-mannered Southern gentleman as he patrols his small Texas town, but Lou is not all that he seems. Ordered to run Joyce (Jessica Alba), a local prostitute, out of town, Lou batters the woman to death, then shoots dead the man infatuated with her - even though Lou himself was having an affair with Joyce.
Based on a Jim Thompson novel, The Killer Inside Me is told through Lou’s eyes, and features a voiceover from Affleck that offers a chilling insight into the banal evil of a man who is a homicidal psychotic. Affleck’s understated performance is perfectly pitched, creating a sympathetic portrayal of a character who is utterly repulsive - the scene in which Affleck beats Alba to a pulp is harrowing, even by contemporary cinema’s standards. And yet the audience can perfectly understand why Lou’s sweetheart, Amy (Kate Hudson), might fall for him: he is tender, intelligent and well-educated.
The director, Michael Winterbottom, recreates the small-town Americana of the 1950s with an unerring eye, giving the movie a dreamy quality that regularly flips over into nightmare whenever the switch flips in Lou’s head. A good cast provides excellent support, with Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas, Simon Baker, Bill Pullman and Brent Briscoe all paying the price, in one form or another, for attempting to thwart Lou’s plans.
Be warned that this is not one for the faint-hearted, as the violence has a perversely intimate quality to it that makes it utterly shocking. That said, as a crime thriller and a forensically telling psychological exploration of psychosis, The Killer Inside Me is a viscerally engaging experience. **** - Declan Burke