The Killer Inside Me (2010)

(On DVD, October 2010) Medium-budget films featuring a cast of known actors but popping up unexpectedly on DVD shelves always present a challenge for viewers: Is it possible to guess why the film wasn’t given a wide theatrical release?  In the case of The Killer Inside Me, the truth gradually dawns that in-between the period setting, awkward staging, rough sex and unconvincing script, the film would have been savaged by reviewers looking for a middle-of-the-road thriller.  And yet, the cast remains impressive, with a few standouts being Jessica Alba as a prostitute who gets the worst of a bad deal, whereas Kate Hudson is strangely credible as a white-trash woman and Casey Affleck becomes as repulsive as he can be as a deputy sheriff gradually revealed as a full-blown psychopath.  The period setting is a hint that the film is adapted from a classic noir novel by Jim Thompson, but a bigger clue is found in the strikingly clumsy staging and character motivations as portrayed on-screen: Novels allow for inner monologues that don’t always translate harmoniously to the big screen, and The Killer Inside Me often feels forced in its graphic violence against women, unexplainable character motivations and repellent protagonist.  A novel getting in the head of a criminal is something that a film simply portraying that violence can’t aspire to.  Numerous decisions, such as the graphic brutality directed at women, the loathsome protagonist and the slow pacing, end up grating more than they convince.  As such, the adaptation can’t aspire to much more than a curiosity for noir fans, even though the period detail is convincing (except for the anachronistic trailer-tanker that shows up during a chase sequence) and the acting talent does the best with the script it’s given.  By the end of the film, there’s no doubt that its proper place is on DVD shelves, and then on to oblivion for most viewers.

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