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THE KILLER INSIDE ME

After Casey Affleck’s thoughtful portrayal of quiet killer Robert Ford in 2007′s THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, I expected something of equally silent-yet-deadly proportions in director Michael Winterbottom’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME. Certainly Affleck, who plays West Texas sheriff’s deputy Lou Ford, is both silent and deadly, but the film fails to capture the same subtle psychological changes that make JESSE JAMES such a silent powerhouse.

KILLER begins when Lou Ford meets Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), a plucky little prostitute with a propensity for violet sex equal to Ford. The slap-happy couple develop a relationship while Ford neglects good girl and wife-to-be Amy Stanton (Kate Hudson). Ford’s sex life is equal to his life as a killer in that they are both enacted with a passion that is only passive at best. Perhaps Affleck took the stone-cold killer direction too literally for we rarely, if ever, see any trace of emotion in his face, even while he beats a former lover to a pulp. For a psychological portrait of a man living two disparate lives, there is very little psychology. We do get some textbook stuff as Ford gradually calls up suppressed memories of sexual abuse from his childhood, but a human story needs more than simply connecting two rather obvious dots.

The result is a shell of film that feels more like an outline of the book, which was written in 1952 by Jim Thompson and actually lives up to promise of being “a chilling look deep inside the warped psyche of killer Lou Ford.” Even the slug line on the original cover offers more insight than we ever get from the movie. “You see,” it reads, “I had to destroy them.” The film leaves out a lot from the book, including the motivating force behind Ford’s killing spree, described by Thompson as “a sickness” that triggered a crime in his youth his father covered up. The sickness is back now and it’s worse than ever, but screenwriter John Curran decided to leave this out as well as everything that makes a character compelling, which makes one wonder why Winterbottom would bother basing a film on a book he didn’t care enough about to flip through once or twice while filming.