Blog Archives

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

This is an unsettling thriller that takes us into the mind of a psychologically dangerous deputy policeman (Casey Affleck). He patrols the small Texas city by day and kills for pleasure by night. The movie runs into a problem because the character doesn’t have a semblance of any moral code, which sounds contradictory for a serial murderer. He doesn’t kill for profit or to cover a secret or anything that would come across as identifiably rational. He kills because he feels he has to; he’ll even kill the mistress he loves because he can’t control himself. It’s an upsetting premise that keeps the audience at a controlled distance throughout the film. There’s an ongoing theme of extreme sexual brutality, and director Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart) seems to linger on extended sequences of sadomasochistic sex and ugly violence against women. There’s some ugly stuff here, like watching Jessica Alba get her face pummeled for a solid two minutes. You just feel sorry for what Alba and Kate Hudson go through (“voiding a full bladder” is amazingly low on the list of awful these women endure). Eventually Affleck has to keep killing to cover his tracks, and the threat of getting caught provides some moderate tension, a relief from wallowing in cruelty. All of this ickiness would seem worthwhile if it felt like we were learning something about our disturbed lead. Affleck plays his opaque character rather flatly, making him free of charisma, empathy, and sadly, insight. He’s just the same as a masked killer in a slasher movie. That’s the worst disappointment in a film with so much ugliness.

Nate’s Grade: C

A Mighty Heart (2007)

Good intentions and some proficient camerawork can only go so far to make a film worthwhile. Angelina Jolie gives the best performance of her career as kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s wife (she’s French and Cuban, making for one really tricky accent). I wanted to like this movie more. The subject matter is serious and timely, the filmmaking has a sturdy docu-drama look, and the acting never comes across as phony, but alas, I think I mentally checked out because much of the film is a detective story that I already know the ending to. Daniel Pearl was infamously beheaded, so watching an hour of his wife, friends, and local police scramble to track down key figures, their allegiances and acquaintances, and the whereabouts of Daniels can come across as fruitless and somewhat cruel. This film doesn’t have the same cathartic feel that United 93 had because that moment was universal, and while I can admire the cinematography and superb acting I can’t ignore the fact that watching people search and fail gives me little emotional reward as a viewer.

Nate’s Grade: B

%d bloggers like this: