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The Killer Inside Me


Year: 2010 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Michael Winterbottom 
Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson  
An image from The Killer Inside Me

The publicity might have you expecting to see glamorous A-listers indulging in kitsch '50s nostalgia. Instead, you are plunged into a world of misogyny, paedophilia and sadism. Films don’t get much more noir than this, and it is hardly an easy watch. Unlike the jokey, supposedly inoffensive violence of Tarantino et al, it would be wrong not to take exception to the graphic brutality on display here.

An uncomfortably faithful adaptation of Jim Thompson’s ultra-violent pulp novel, the story focuses on Lou Ford (Affleck), a gentlemanly and polite small-town sheriff with various disturbing secrets hidden in his past. He is instructed to run prostitute Joyce Lakeland (Alba) out of town, but after she begins angrily hitting him, they begin a passionate love affair. The twisted beginnings of this romance lead inevitably to its tragic ending, following the shocking emergence of Ford’s psychotic tendencies. Everything we see is filtered through Ford’s viewpoint, so while it seems that Joyce and girlfriend Amy Stanton (Hudson) remain lovingly devoted to him throughout his brutal beatings, it is never clear whether their enduring love is just the product of a madman’s indulgent self-illusion.

Michael Winterbottom has long been one of the most prominent contemporary British directors, but this film heralds his first Hollywood production. His prolific career has spanned many different genres, and critics have struggled to understand how The Killer Inside Me fits in with his overall body of work. The highly contentious nature of the graphic violence in this film has lead to associations with some of Winterbottom’s more controversial projects (Butterfly Kiss, 9 Songs), while it is also possible to align it with the director’s political streak (seen in Road to Guantanamo, In This World and The Shock Doctrine) and read this story as an allegory for American society committing unspeakable atrocities while retaining the façade of respectability.

Shoshana Eilon

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Screenings of this film:

2010/2011 Autumn Term (35mm)