Shocking but scintillating: a look into the dark heart of Americana

Cert: 18

WITH this psychological thriller, Michael Winterbottom – the prolific English director whose work includes 24 Hour Party People and Angelina Jolie-starring A Mighty Heart – has made a film even more controversial than his 2004 film 9 Songs, which gained notoriety for featuring real sex. An adaptation of a 1952 pulp fiction novel by American writer Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me stars Casey Affleck as an unassuming Texan sheriff, Lou Ford, whose innocent appearance hides gruesome sexual and violent impulses that bubble to the surface with shocking brutality as the film progresses.

Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, two of Hollywood’s most immaculate starlets, are among those on the receiving end of Lou Ford’s unbridled sadism. Hudson is Ford’s girlfriend, Alba the hooker with whom Ford embarks on a torrid affair, while Elias Koteas and Tom Bower are among the investigators gradually closing in on Ford.

The violence when it comes is indeed difficult to watch, and the dreadful image of Alba’s disfigured face is difficult to forget. But this is a fantastic film nevertheless. Winterbottom’s point is that, while The Killer Inside Me makes for difficult viewing, violence – too often a lazy staple of so much cinema – should make for difficult viewing. The film has a burning intensity and psychological depth, the relocation of the noir genre from its claustrophobic LA home to sparse West Texas creating a chilling sense of isolation akin to that achieved in the Coen Brothers film Fargo.

It’s no surprise that the film is generating column inches and TV headlines on a par with last year’s Antichrist; but such is the skill and resonance of the Winterbottom’s filmmaking that it’s worth ignoring the hysteria and finding out for yourself.

Rhys Griffiths


THERE’S something particularly atmospheric about watching actors strut their stuff as the stars come out on a beautiful summer’s evening, and something particularly English about huddling under a blanket with a hipflask and hoping the rain will stay off just long enough for Birnam wood to come to Dunsinane. Macbeth (until 27 June), indeed, is the show that’s kicked off the season at London’s home of outdoor theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, with Elliott Cowan as the murderous Scots king, and another less-than-reputable Shakespearean monarch is now on state there too, in a zinging production of the Bard’s less-often performed Henry VIII (until 21 August).

“Kings & rogues” – and indeed those who fall under both banners – is this year’s theme at the Globe, where you can stand among the groundlings for a mere fiver, or pay a bit more to sit on benches in the galleries. Opening next month is Howard Brenton’s play Anne Boleyn (24 July-21 August), about Henry VIII’s wife, while both parts of Henry IV (6 June-3 October) and a revival of 2008’s hilarious The Merry Wives of Windsor (14 August-2 October) are lined up to follow. See for tickets and information.

Over in Regent’s Park, the beautiful amphitheatre that is the Open Air Theatre (pictured above) will be staging its own version of Macbeth (3-31 July) in a condensed version that’s suitable for kids over six. Before that, a production of Arthur Miller’s allegory based on the Salem witch hunt, The Crucible (until 19 June) has opened this week, while Shakespeare’s farce, The Comedy of Errors (24 June-31 July), will be directed by Philip Franks later this month. Finally, what will no doubt be a highly atmospheric version of Stephen Sondheim’s adaptation of the Brothers Grimm, Into the Woods (6 August-11 September) will round things off at the Open Air Theatre, which also has comedy and music performances over the summer. See for tickets and information.

Just along the river from Shakespeare’s Globe is another outdoor theatre space, The Scoop at Southwark’s More London development, a riverside amphitheatre where you can sit and watch performances for free. Its official free theatre festival runs during August, bringing Kenneth Grahame’s characters to life in Toad Hall!, and Jose Zorrilla’s Don Juan in Love. Before that, there are a series of Fringe performances, including yet another version of Macbeth – this time by the joyfully absurdist company The Pantaloons – that’s running throughout June. See for tickets and information.

Timothy Barber