Monday, 14 June 2010

the killer inside me (d. winterbottom, w. john curran)

Winterbottom's career tends to be somewhat hit and miss, in part as a result of the variety of cinematic styles this prolific director has chosen to explore. For my money, the films of his I've enjoyed the most have been those dealing with a specifically British sensibility and humour. However, he's become an adept filmmaker, capable of ratcheting Hollywood A-listers into unlikely material (A Mighty Heart, Code 46) and you always expect to find something of interest in his films, even if you don't like the one in particular.

Consequently, the slightly mundane nature of The Killer Inside Me, in spite of its violence, makes it feel like an atypical Winterbottom movie, more of a Hollywood product. Casey Affleck delivers another phenomenal performance as the psychotic lawman, and the supporting cast do their bit (their value emphasised by the the old school title sequence), but the material, an adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel, feels generic.

Maybe that's why the director's chosen to go overboard with the violence. It feels as though he's a hired hand, looking to stamp his mark on a packaged product. The violence is shocking, in a cinematic way. Less so is the transgressive sex, (somewhat limply re-featured in flashbacks from time to time), which titillates rather than excites or disturbs. As though made knowing that whilst he could get away with upping the violence ante in the States, he would be never be allowed to explore the potentially more intriguing sexual themes in any great detail. Occasionally, in Winterbottom's work, there's hints of Roeg at his darkest, but where Roeg was prepared (or allowed) to explore his themes in all their murky depths, Winterbottom sometimes seems to use these same themes as window dressing.

The ending, pure grand guignol, seems indicative of a script which has backed itself into an absurd corner. The way in which the direction chooses to promote the theatricality seems like another indication of the director himself struggling to make something more quirky from his base materials, but at the end of the day the film seems slightly sluggish, lacking a real sense of place, and choosing to make up for its torpor with the occasional firework.

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