Not since John McNaughton's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has a film attempted so closely to follow and track the depravity of a killer, but Michael Winterbottom's latest experiment (based on a popular piece of pulp fiction) tries its hardest to do just that, but is sadly derailed by superfluous story threads and unnecessary supporting characters that seem to just drift in and out of the story with no rhyme or reason. The major difference between the two films, and one of the reasons the former works so well, is that McNaughton's film isn't stylized in the way that Winterbottom's film The Killer Inside Me is. McNaughton's film also wasn't interested in cluttering the story with those aforementioned unnecessary elements. Here was have a film that seems like it's going into an uncomfortable territory – into a place where there is nowhere to hide and we must confront the brutality of the killer we're watching (and being led through the story by); however, this is not the case with The Killer Inside Me which sadly devolves into normalcy when the film really calls for all-out, unflinching nihilism.
I'm not saying that's a requirement for a film of this nature to be good, but if Winterbottom and his crew (and the crew does great work as the production design and cinematography are top notch) were content on giving us scenes like they do where a character is brutally punched to death (with sound-mixing that churned my stomach) then they can't back down the rest of the way by making the film a banal procedural with unnecessary periphery characters and a horribly misused soundtrack. Sadly, that's what The Killer Inside Me amounts to. I really wanted to love this movie. I was ready to go there if the film would have been willing to go to the places, the depths, it promised it was going in its opening 30 minutes. Alas, it's somewhat of a miss for Winterbottom, one of the most prolific (and one of my favorite) filmmakers working today. The Killer Inside Me is a beautiful looking film with the appropriate pulp/noir aesthetic, but a tone that is all over the place (especially in the way the film juxtaposes the brutality of its moments with a 50's soundtrack that is just all wrong all the time). There's enough here in the performance of Affleck and the style of the film to make it more than a worthwhile curiosity, but considering the talent and the subject matter it's a surprisingly disappointing and banal one.