Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Killer Inside Me


Jim Thompson was the best of the new hard-boiled writers of the ‘50s. He’s sort of the Philip K. Dick of the paperback crime novel: Fairly prolific, not much appreciated while he was alive, “discovered” later. So sad. Several good films have been made from his books, including The Grifters, from an Oscar-nominated script by Donald E. Westlake.

This was made once already, in 1976, starring Stacy Keach, and apparently wasn’t very good. And for years other people have wanted to make or re-make it, a truly astonishing list of Hollywood A-listers, including Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise, Brooke Shields, Demi Moore, Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman, Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron, and Reese Witherspoon. Whew! If those folks couldn’t get it out of development hell, how did Casey Affleck? Remember, this was before his Oscar for Manchester by the Sea. (An Oscar that should have gone to Ryan Gosling, in my opinion.)

Well, he did, and he mumbles his way through the film, just like he did in Manchester.

The story is quite unusual, in that it is told by a psychopath, a deputy sheriff in a small Texas town (actually Oklahoma) who kills two people in a weird revenge plot, and then ends up having to kill again and again to cover it up. He walks us through it all, through his crazy thinking, almost seeming to make sense now and then. It is extremely violent, but it’s not sustained violence like we see in Tarantino films, or modern war films. There are only two violent scenes, but they are so violent, so disturbing that a lot of critics panned the film for that. Particularly female critics, as the scenes show the incredibly brutal murder of two women. I found them hard to watch, too, but what the hell? The story was about this crazy man who seemed so normal on the outside, but had this brute inside him. Should we not see the brute in action? It seems to me that was the whole point. Anyway, there is good work by Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba, and several supporting characters.

I’d recommend it, but only for those with cast-iron stomachs. I should note that while I read the book many years ago, I don’t recall how it ended. I’m very doubtful that it was the ending we see here, but this is not a case of cleaning something up. I thought it was an honest way to end it.