Casey Affleck arrives on the big screen with two strikes against him every time out.
The actor is part of a family not known for its acting chops – thanks a lot, big bro.
And the younger Affleck’s face is reminiscent of Big Ben. It’s got that power chin and features which appear frozen for far too long during close-ups.
And yet Casey Affleck nabbed an Oscar nomination two years ago for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” and he delivers another startling turn in “The Killer Inside Me.”
The latter, out Sept. 28 on DVD and Blu-ray, split critics with its unrelenting violence against women. Yet the film supercedes such complaints because Affleck’s baby face hides the soul of a sociopath.
“Killer,” based on a ’50s noir tale by Jim Thompson, casts Affleck as a deputy named Lou who’s above reproach to those who don’t know him well. He’s soft spoken – OK, he mumbles – and he’s always there to help out a citizen in need.
But when he’s asked to not so politely push a prostitute (Jessica Alba) out of town, he snaps. Her resistance triggers a violent tide within him, and they begin a destructive relationship that ends in her murder.
And, yes, the sequence in question is just as horrifying as advertised, and one could argue the merits of director Michael Winterbottom (“A Mighty Heart”) showing us every savage punch. The murder sets off a chain of events that make Lou’s life exceedingly complex. But he seems more than up to the challenge.
At times he almost looks bored.
What makes “Killer” so fascinating is watching Lou juggle several aspects of his personality without ever losing his cool. He fends off the accusations of a Columbo-esque FBI agent (Simon Baker) and his clingy galpal (Kate Hudson, sexy and vulnerable like we’ve never seen her before). His sense of calm is more chilling than his flashes of rage.
Other gifted character actors circle Affleck, each adding something rich and sometimes unsettling to the story. Ned Beatty co-stars as the town bigshot cut down to size by the death of his son, while Elias Koteas plays a union official who knows more than he should.
“The Killer Inside Me,” like most modern films, isn’t sure how to resolve its narrative. We’re left to admire the bleakly beautiful landscapes, narration so spare you forget its part of the story and an oldies soundtrack that completes the period portrait.
And there’s Affleck through it all, making Lou the kind of monster we rarely see on screen.
Christian Toto is a veteran journalist and film critic whose work appears in The Denver Post, The Washington Times and PajamasMedia.com. His movie reviews are heard on WTOP radio and “The Dennis Miller Show,” and he blogs on film at What Would Toto Watch?
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.