July 2, 2010 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'The Killer Inside Me' -- GRADE: B-

Review: Disturbing 'The Killer Inside Me' difficult to enjoy

Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck are a couple in "The Killer Inside Me." (Michael Muller)

With his mid-30s baby face and perpetual teen crack of a voice, Casey Affleck doesn't fit the cliché of a murderous sexual abuser, but that's part of what makes him so effective and chilling in "The Killer Inside Me."

He never looks like a monster, and that's scary.

Based on one of Jim Thompson's purposely depraved pulp novels, "Killer" is a disturbing film that leaves you feeling somewhat guilty for watching it. Admitting to enjoying it is tantamount to admitting mental illness. Eclectic director Michael Winterbottom ("A Mighty Heart") knows this and yet presses on.

Affleck plays Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in a sleepy western town in the '50s. One day he's asked to visit a prostitute living on the outskirts of town and suggest she move.

That prostitute is Joyce (Jessica Alba), and she attacks Ford when he confronts her. So he attacks her back. In the way of Thompson novels, this violence leads to sexual passion and an ongoing twisted relationship.

Meanwhile, Ford dates pretty Amy (Kate Hudson), although his secret abuse of Joyce has opened some deep, dark floodgate within. Eventually, both women are faced with the killer inside Ford and the results aren't pretty.

Actually, they are horribly brutal in a way that assaults the viewer as well. The question of Winterbottom's intent here isn't easily answered, but the power of his abuse scenes is undeniable.

Still, is there a point to this film beyond its mean spirit? And is such a mean spirit enough to carry a movie? Or is this simple bloodlust indulgence?

"The Killer Inside Me" is big on raising aesthetic questions, not so big on offering clear answers. Sick, shocking and essentially senseless, it shoves the whole mess in the viewer's face and asks -- Well?

Well?

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