Monday, 4 October 2010

The Killer Inside Me & The Killers

 Winterbottom, like Affleck’s bad cop, pulls no punches in ‘The Killer Inside Me’. Look how nasty violence can be, he tells us, as another sickening thud accompanies one more knuckle sandwich delivered by the killer. Thanks, Michael, I never knew how bad it was until you showed me. What he really showed me was that you can have too much of a bad thing and that directors shackled by censorship were forced to come up with more imaginative ways to depict what happens, to the benefit of the audience, surely.
   Perhaps Winterbottom felt that he was filming for the really stupid and desensitised, in which case, thanks again, for patronising me. What kind of oaf needs a lesson of that kind? The popcorn-munching, Coke-guzzling teenager? Maybe.
   Affleck’s got the look to play a stone-cold killer, but if I’d been watching this at the cinema I think I’d have begun to feel as sore around the backside as his victims. I got bored halfway through, thinking of what the Coen brothers could have done with it. But they’ve already mastered noir and the American Western psycho.
   Here the cop’s internal monologue is supposed to go some way to addressing the problem of translating Thompson’s masterful prose into the visual, but it fails. Thompson’s classic was brutal, but bereft of the writer’s ability to be inside this killer, Winterbottom leaves us with a cipher for evil rather than a real character. Most unbelievable of all were the lovers so devoted to this man. Here, if we give any thought to it, their fondness for him is not justified other than in some slurpy love scenes and shots of Affleck smiling in their company. This killer must have had a lot of charm, charisma...something. Instead, he’s all inside out and we don’t see what they’re supposed to therefore the relationship’s make no sense. Is the fact that he likes to play piano and listen to classical music supposed to reveal the sensitive side? Read the book instead.

 Hemingway’s ‘The Killers’ was first adapted by Robert Siodmak to create a classic noir in ‘46, then Don Siegel got a shot at it in 64, supposedly for TV, but it was deemed too violent so it got a theatrical release. Too violent then is nothing compared to today’s standards, of course. It’s most famous, perhaps, for Ronald Reagan slapping Angie Dickinson, not just because in retrospect it appears incongruous, but because it’s a slap that carries a lot of impact. Michael, less can be more.
   Winterbottom could have learned something from Siegel’s handling of the scene in which the killers deal with the blind female receptionist. Here, the depiction of evil behaviour is not lessened by the absence of graphic detail. Yes, we have to use that old-fashioned facility called imagination.
   Dickenson’s femme fatale, exposed in the glaring light of day and full colour, is no less alluring than her noir predecessors, of course. If anything, her radiance heightens the contrast of what lies in her dark heart. Lee Marvin can always convey the killer superbly, without having to actually do anything. And watching Reagan play the bad guy is fascinating in itself. His woodenness seems to be an advantage as a ruthless criminal.
   The best shot comes towards the end, when Strom (Marvin) gets out of his car. All we see is the ground, shoes, then blood dripping onto the pavement. At times it looks like a TV film, but Lee and Angie make it very watchable, and Siegel is no slouch when it comes to direction crime films. Cassavetes is good enough as the desperate speed freak, but he should have known something was wrong when someone as beautiful as Angie plays the driver groupie. He wasn’t the one taking her for a ride.

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