The Killer Inside Me – Michael Winterbottom (USA 2010) Casey Affleck; Kate Hudson
Viewed Tyneside Film Theatre; 8 June 2010; Ticket price £7.00
“There is something inside every man that keeps him going long after he has any reason to.” ( Jim Thompson)
Viewing The Killer Inside Me it is evident that Michael Winterbottom has not understood the bitter sweet words of Jim Thompson, and continues to make movies long after he has any reason to. However deranged and twisted it might be, there is self knowledge in Thompson’s losers that is beyond this director.
“I like it when you hurt me….!” drawls Amy in her best throaty breathless voice, as Lou straps her. And her words in Winterbottom’s (MW) rendering of Jim Thompson’s novel The Killer Inside Me (KIM) become a sort of literal strap line, selling the idea of the movie as if it were a designer label or brand of leather goods accessories. The movie instead of finding a form to transpose Jim Thompson’s voice from word to image, is mutated under MW’s direction into an extended glossy advert which could have been shot for Prada or Comme des Garcons, but instead is selling fashionable rough-stuff sex, a classy looking snuff movie
Jim Thompson’s dime novels are telegrams from the nether world of US society. The works are tersely written, often in the form of monologues delivered by rogue males from the internal space of paranoid violence that is America. Characters created by JT were actualised by damaged rootless loners such as Perry and Dick who massacred the Clutter family in 1959 and were chronicled by Truman Capote with his book, ‘In Cold Blood’. The world of the deterritorialised schizo, the damaged product of a society that with no place or function for them, cuts men lose with their internalised pent up resentments, both imagined and real. Desperate psyches often with smooth exteriors painfully and expertly forged so as to be able to pass through life without attracting too much attention.
The qualities expressed through the characters of JT’s writing, are informed by a level of self knowledge, fear and surprise at the world which feed into intense feedback loops that drive the men to action. The action is always precipitated from within the psyche; never as in Chandler’s work from without. The worlds occupied by JT’s protagonists are not high definition or glamorous in character; they are messy stained fucked up streams of thought that are punctuated by action that is mechanical but filled out with observational detail. MB just doesn’t get it. His approach seems to be that he has a text to adapt and to fill out with image. He is unable to do anything more with his film than replicate the Hollywood Coda. In MW’s hands KIM is delivered as a life style statement.
Remove the internal thinking from JT and what’s left is a series of mechanically contrived events. In sum: nothing. And despite the use Lou’s voice over to inform the images the core of ‘thinking’ eludes MW’s movie leaving only the autopilot of the plot line as a basic structure. The camera makes no contribution to the film beyond obeying the strictures of central casting and getting into the action, leaving nothing to the imagination. The violence and the sex are graphically communicated in image, as MW has nowhere to take his camera other than into the banality of depictation. Intercut into the plot structure are a series of flashbacks: some to Lou’s childhood, some to his relationship with Joyce. But the flashbacks delinked to any core expression of Lou’s voice, seem to me a tired device, indulging a need to break up the monotony of the plot rather than giving any substantive expressive form to Lou’s state of mind. Likewise the sound track is dominated by a farrago of ‘50’s pop music that is supposed to ironically underlay and counterbalance the drama. In fact the music comes across as the equivilent of a musical tourist bus tour. It’s symptomatic of the project that MW choses style over substance, opting for facile authenticity rather than the tough option of finding a note for his film
KIM will probably be very popular movie. The dead speak to the dead. The explicit and gratuitous are favoured as categorical imperatives, justified in themselves, because they sell. MW in a sense is a cultural product, reinterpreting Jim Thompson’s internal dialogues as easy viewing for burnt out male castrati. The dead are not alive in themselves, they live in the image. Psychopathic killers living out images of themselves in the movies as they cut their murderous swathes through life. In early June Derek Bird just killed 12 people in Cumbria. What movie was he in as he took his guns and aimed point blank at his victims and blew them away? Perhaps it’s a movie MW will make. A lifestyle choice.