Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The worst movie I've seen in a long time award goes to Killer Inside Me, a movie that has been trying to get made for decades, based off of an infamous hardboiled novel (a touchstone in the noir universe) which Stanley Kubrick found disturbing. It's about a young smalltown sheriff with some serious, sick repressed tendencies who copes with his issues by being sickeningly cliche in his interactions with people (an element the film did not touch on, or if it did I sure missed it). A loose woman comes into town, and she unleashes all of his twisted stuff (she apparently understands him), but he winds up killing her and a ton of other people in violent ways, all while keeping up appearances. There's alot of ways you could have gone with a story as dark as this, and the director and screenwriters apparently chose irony, juxtaposition, and extreme violence towards the female characters to convey the sheriff's descent. This, for some- or many- reason(s) fails, hard, and becomes a fairly boring film with no hook, really, and an ending I couldn't have cared less about. Well, maybe not less, but I certainly wasn't hanging on Casey Affleck's every word.

One of the few things the film brings across well is the brutal beating violence that Affleck inflicts on two of the female characters. That is, this would have been pulled off had the movie been of quality. Morally, when it comes to scenes such as that (in this case, Jessica Alba's prostitute gets repeatedly beaten in the face while Kate Hudson gets punched in the stomach and lies struggling for breath on the floor, her dress covering her face, until Affleck finally ends the suffering), I wonder about their right to exist, and in the end I think it's alright, though admittedly a bit of a grey area, like any sort of reprehensible behavior put onscreen. I'm anti-censorship and believe that only parents and nurturing surroundings can help prevent impressionable young people from doing such reprehensible things, however it is undeniable that film is a powerful medium and so long as it has influence on what people wear or say, it will inspire people in other ways. I've thought about and often discussed with others the Artist's Responsibility, that is, the creator's duty to make his or her point as clear as possible, and to be aware of such negative inspirations on the audience (should Mel Gibson have changed Passion of the Christ by removing objectionable parts quoted directly from the Bible? no, but perhaps he should have added a foreward to the film condemning anti-semitism for those crazies who might think The Passion was some kind of call to arms... though he refused to do that because he thought that would be an indication that there was something improper about his film. que sera sera). Point being, artists should make sure that such material is damn necessary and effective before just tossing it in the salad.
Anyway, the violence is the only thing that has caught anyone's attention about this film, and that makes sense. I was a little surprised by how cringe-worthy Alba's death was, because I thought that I had seen "beatings" in films, but this was different-- there were very few cuts, the camera was unflinching as Affleck just punched her face repeatedly, prompting me to wonder how many things in the human face can be broken. Really horrible stuff-- which would have been suitable if the film had ANYTHING to say, or any flair with which to say it. Affleck is this completely Evil Man with a wicked past and a mother who liked masochism. Apparently the mother part messed him up, but that's the only light we see in Affleck's head. Killers kill due to compulsion, disgust, sexual thrill, or material motivation, and I guess Affleck is supposed to be starting here with the very former, but we don't see any of that. He just starts killing folks. We get the impression that he's supposed to be sort of brilliant to get away with all of this, but the film never really lets us feel that he's brilliant, despite his annoying, excessive voice-over narration, which is another thing that was all wrong here-- the VO could have been crucial, bone-chilling, Lector-level creepy but again the director goes for irony-- isn't it creepy that Affleck is so bland, isn't it spooky that he just HAS to kill like that?! Misses the mark completely. There's also a theme of old-country tunes sprinkled throughout, which is kind of interesting but the style of the film is so flat already that the tunes become gimmicky and super-annoying.

With the best thriller/horror/evil-psycho-man movies there's a sense of dread, and every time another one bites the dust, the audience bites their nails, thinking dammit, I liked that one, I thought he was going to live! They're pulled in by their fascination with the antagonist because, as my Irish Lit professor pointed out, the most frightening is that which is like us but not (vampires, werewolves, Hannibal Lector). Alas, this just doesn't happen, but it's not the cast's fault. Firstly, most of the main players are miscast. Jessica Alba cannot act, she needs to go away, and though I will admit that this is the best I've seen her, she's not suited for it. Kate Hudson is all right, but overall underused, underdeveloped, and as an actress she seems a bit lost despite trying very hard. Casey Affleck is one of my most favorite actors, and he does a great job with the directions and script he's given, but the character just isn't there. Nevertheless, I do admire his subtlety in this role, his twitches and dry, Texan voice work well, and I think he could have pulled it off under different circumstances-- STILL, I don't believe he was the best choice for the role at all. It should have been someone a bit bigger and more commanding, charismatic, while still being able to anchor himself with dorkish, bore-of-a-sheriff-ness. The two actors I really did love in the film had criminally insignificant parts: Bill Pullman had a great few minutes as a fake-irate lawyer that rescues Affleck from an asylum, and that guy from the Mentalist plays the investigator of Affleck's murders (but, like alot of other folks in this movie, Mr. Mentalist seems to have nothing to do).

Towards the end of the film all of Affleck's lies are starting to unravel and we're supposed to feel the tension, but there is none, because nobody really cares. I mean, you're a bit curious to know how this guy is going to go down, but even when that happens it's underwhelming and the ultimate assurance that there was no reason to sit through this movie that's grabbing only in its let's-beat-up-the-girls moments, which ultimately makes the film more than a fail. Without any backbone or character truth, those scenes are worse than cringey, they're pointless. About twenty minutes worth of women being attacked by a man (who "loves them") to no end, which, if you ask me, is pretty dirty.

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