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“The Killer Inside Me”: Life is hot in noirtown.

“The Killer Inside Me”: Life is hot in noirtown. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Michael Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me” is a pedal-to-the-floor, broken-bottle-to-the-throat adaptation of a novel of the same name by Jim Thompson, the darkest and pulpiest dark pulp writer of them all. The opening sequence (after gloriously retro opening credits): West Texas hometown boy turned deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) gets sent to a house in the outskirts of town to run off a prostitute. She turns out to be Jessica Alba in a kimono, and she doesn’t take making his acquaintance well. She slaps him a good one one, and something behind that baby face snaps, and he holds her down and beats her with his belt until she’s weeping. He apologizes, she turns over and kisses him. Now they’re in love.

You can see why “The Killer Inside Me” so enraged a sizable chunk of its Sundance audience, and that’s before even touching on the two instances in which Lou, whose downhill spiral is more like a jump off a cliff, devotes himself to methodically beating a woman to death. Flesh bruises and bleeds and swells beyond recognition, skin tears, urine puddles on the floor. It’s pretty vile, but, as a colleague put it, is that really something we’d want prettied up? Lou’s not by any means a nice guy — he can’t be contained by even the broadest definition of an antihero, he’s just a newly loosed psychopath we’re bound up with on a heedless gallop toward hell.

And I can’t say there’s not a tremendous amount of glee to be found in that. “The Killer Inside Me” is set in a world in which everyone’s a voluptuously pulp archetype — Ned Beatty is the manipulative construction king, Jay R. Ferguson his dissolute scion, Elias Koteas the corrupt union boss, Tom Bower the alcoholic sheriff, Liam Aiken the budding juvenile delinquent; Kate Hudson the town sweetheart far too willing to stand by her man… by the time Bill Pullman strides in, hair flapping, as a belligerent lawyer whose theatrical shouts echo down the corridor, you’re either grinning like an idiot or you’ve walked out. Why not stick with the killer, in this context? The town’s brightly blown-out enclosures and lean shadowed nights make it seem like some sort of Edward Hopper snowglobe filled with gasoline, all set to blow.

02042010_killerinsideme4.jpgWinterbottom doesn’t truck much with Lou’s motivations and backstory, presented as a jangle of quick flashbacks — mother who lays the unhealthy groundwork for his future relationships with women early, molestation of a local girl, stepbrother who tries to protect him. You’d have to read the book to fully understand what sparks his initial crime (revenge…ish) or to grasp that Alba, playing an utterly unconvincing S&M siren, is meant to be the dark force that first pulls him down his wayward path. They’re just excuses, anyway — sometimes a psychopath is just a psychopath, no matter how long he’s managed a mask of normalcy. Mostly, the film’s about the pleasures of watching whey-faced, forever compelling Affleck be, as the lady once put it, “rotten to the heart.”

“The Killer Inside Me” has been acquired for release by IFC Films.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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