Directed by Michael Winterbottom (who I looked up and frankly, I have never heard of him nor have I seen any of his movies) this is a movie adaptation of Jim Thompson’s story The Killer Inside Me.
Set in the 1950s, Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a Deputy Sheriff who is…not well. He is asked by his boss to go talk to a lady that is taking gentlemen customers for pleasure activities through her motel room. This, of course, looks bad for Central City and he wants her run out of town.
The woman in question, Joyce Lakeland (played by Jessica Alba) is a very beautiful but, hardened prostitute with a smart mouth and a taste for the gamier side of sex. We discover just how gamey when Ford goes to talk to her and they have an argument, which escalates into a physical fight and then into a literal ass whooping for Joyce, and somehow into a sexual encounter. An encounter that repeats itself multiple times over the next few days.
Now that they are totally into each other (and have been having at each other for some time), Ford and Joyce cook up a plan to scam Elmer Conway out of $10,000, who also happens to be the son of the richest man in town, Chester Conway. The plan is that Elmer is going to bring the money to Joyce’s room at ten o’clock the following night. Elmer (the poor dope) thinks that he and Joyce are running away together. Joyce thinks that she and Ford are going to kill Elmer and take the money and run away together.
Now, Ford has been in communication with all of them plus, Chester Conway, who is not happy about his son skipping town with a prostitute. So, Chester enlists Ford to make sure that Elmer delivers the money and leaves Joyce and that Joyce then, leaves town. So, he thinks that the chick and the money will be gone and his son will come home and everything will blow over.
They are ALL wrong.
Ford has a different plan entirely. But first, he gets caught sleeping around by his girlfriend Amy Stanton, played by Kate Hudson. In order to convince her he’s not cheating and loves her only, he proposes and she accepts (this is just one of the many twisted love exchanges that happen in this movie).
So now, Ford is engaged to Amy but still sleeping with Joyce. Joyce is sleeping with Ford and leading Elmer on to get the money. Elmer’s father is all up in his son’s business and wants Joyce run out of town. Plus, Daddy-O is counting on Ford to tie up any and all loose ends regarding the whole exchange. And Elmer is hoping to run away into the sunset with Joyce forever and is counting on Lou Ford to help him make that happen.
So, the night of the meet up at the motel, Ford arrives at Joyce’s room about an hour before Elmer is supposed to arrive with the money. Joyce suggests they get down for a quickie but, Lou decides that something else needs to happen instead.
He beats her, with his fists, until she’s hanging on to life by a very slender thread. He leaves her slumped over, sitting on the floor and fallen against the wall of the motel room. And he goes outside to wait for Elmer.
When Elmer arrives and enters the room, seeing Joyce in that horrible condition (and I promise you, the scene where Joyce gets beaten is very graphic), he completely freaks out. Lou enters the room behind Elmer and shoots him multiple times. He then wipes his prints off of the gun and puts it in one of Joyce’s hands, making it look like Elmer beat the hell out of her and she shot him in self-defense.
On his way home from the scene, he almost crashes into Chester Conway, who is now on his way to the motel to check on his son, who hasn’t come home after dropping off the $10,000. When they get to the room, Joyce is not dead, like Lou planned. Chester makes sure she is whisked away to get the best medical care possible so he can make sure she gets prosecuted for the murder of his son. While they await word on her surgery, Ford and his boss hang out in a hotel room. They are soon phoned and his boss reveals that Joyce is dead and didn’t make it.
Meanwhile, confident he has gotten away with his crimes, Lou is out walking one night and when a man down on his luck asks Lou for money, Lou burns the palm of his outstretched hand with his cigar. The man is shocked and walks away clutching his hand, warning Lou he should watch it with that kind of stuff.
In light of these horrific murders, Howard Hendricks, a county attorney (Simon Baker) shows up to investigate. He starts to suspect Lou for the crimes but, is having a hard time getting any evidence and getting Lou to talk, of course.
In the meantime, he arrests a young man who is a friend of Ford’s. A boy by the name of Johnnie, who he has been keeping an eye on and helping out when needed for Johnnie’s dad. It’s just a friendly favor kind of thing. But, Ford quickly uses it to his advantage. Johnnie is found with a marked twenty-dollar bill. A bill that came from the money that was supposed to be given to Joyce. However, Ford is the one that gave Johnnie the money. It was a tip while he was gassing up Ford’s car. But, Hendricks doesn’t know that. And he actually, while trying to manipulate Ford, asks Lou to talk to Johnnie while he’s in jail, try to get him to confess to the murders.
Instead, while talking to Johnnie, Ford tells him that HE was the one that killed Joyce and Elmer and while they are left alone, just the two of them, Lou hangs Johnnie in his cell and then leaves. He is later discovered and it is thought to be suicide from guilt over committing the murders.
Later, Ford is visited at his home by the man that asked him for money, the one he burned. Apparently, this man has been following Ford and knows everything about everything. He wants money. He tells Lou to get him $5,000 and he will disappear forever and the topic is closed for good. Ford agrees. They decide to meet at Ford’s house later to complete the transaction.
As this is all going on, Ford is trying to maintain a regular life with Amy. They plan to elope and on the day Amy comes to the house to do so, Ford kills her too. Then, our beggar shows up at Ford’s house, sees Amy dead on the floor and loses it, running from the house, screaming. Ford chases this man down the street with a knife in his hand, as he is yelling out that THIS MAN killed his fiancé Amy Stanton. The police end up shooting him dead in the street.
As the case closes in on Ford, his boss and friend, commits suicide. Hendricks is convinced he did this once he realized that Ford was guilty.
Lost in his own demons and feeling the pressure, Ford dowses his house in gasoline and alcohol, arms himself with a knife and waits for the police and investigators to show up.
When they do, they have a little surprise for Lou. Joyce. She didn’t die and although they tried to get her to cooperate with the investigation, she refused. She steps towards Lou to tell him this and he walks to her, says he loves her and then stabs her in the stomach. While they are chest to chest, the police open fire and shoot through Joyce, hitting Ford on the other side of her body, killing them both and igniting the gasoline, blowing up the house in a catastrophic explosion. Ford, Joyce, Hendricks, Chester Conway and a couple of police officers all die in the fire.
This is truly one movie where there are shocks and surprises at every turn. The violence is very graphic and amazingly disturbing, as this stuff doesn’t usually get me. But watching Casey Affleck beat in Jessica Alba’s face as if I had ringside seats at a heavy weight boxing match was wicked. There are things that happen in this movie that I didn’t even cover. There’s just no way to get into every little thing. This movie is definitely worth watching and I would recommend it to anyone who digs a good psychological thriller with some good old-fashioned violence.
However, if watching a movie where women are treated badly is something that makes your stomach turn, this is not the movie for you. While Ford seems to feel something for these women, he is definitely very into abusive, violent behavior not to mention he too has a propensity for, shall we say, very aggressive sex.
The scenes where he beats these women are very violent and very up close and personal. Because of this, I feel that the special effects make up that turns Alba into a human hamburger is right on.
Only one thing struck me as off enough to say something. And it is something that is relatively minor and I know can’t be controlled. But, it’s Affleck’s voice. For a cold-blooded killer, he sure has a strange voice. It sounds so soft and sweet and boy like. I just thought it was weird. Maybe that was part of why they chose him, because by the way he sounds, he seems so unassuming and unimposing. But WATCH him talk and you get a whole new picture of Lou Ford.
I do feel this was a successful movie and although it moved a tiny bit on the slow side, I still would watch it again. It was certainly worth watching the first time.