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Originally published Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

'The Killer Inside Me': Casey Affleck unleashes his creepy side — again

"The Killer Inside Me" stars Casey Affleck ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford") playing another creepy killer in this noirish thriller based on Jim Thompson's 1952 novel.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'The Killer Inside Me,' with Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Ned Beatty, Tom Bower, Elias Koteas, Simon Baker. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, from a screenplay by John Curran, based on a novel by Jim Thompson. 109 minutes. Rated R for disturbing brutal violence, aberrant sexual content and some graphic nudity. Varsity.

What is it about Casey Affleck and creepy killers named Ford?

A couple of years ago, Affleck earned a supporting-actor Oscar nomination for playing the murderous Robert Ford in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." In the tightly wound new thriller, "The Killer Inside Me," he plays a creepy killer named ... Lou Ford.

While Affleck is awfully good in these roles, using his baby face and whispery-whiny voice to chilling effect, the danger of typecasting seems uniquely heightened by the use of the same moniker. What's in a last name, indeed?

To his credit, Affleck avoids making Lou suggest a reboot of Robert. He's pushy and cowardly, but in a more calculating way, and he's sadistically sexual in a way that Robert never was. The scenes in which Lou all but rapes his girlfriend (Jessica Alba) and fiancée (Kate Hudson) are deeply, uncomfortably brutal.

A deputy sheriff in a small 1950s Texas town, Lou Ford uses his manipulative powers quite openly, stringing along his dozing boss (Tom Bower), a union official (Elias Koteas), a businessman (Ned Beatty) and a suspicious federal agent (Simon Baker).

John Curran's noirish script, based on Jim Thompson's 1952 novel of the same name, is almost self-consciously mean to its characters, who never seem to get a break. The director, Michael Winter-

bottom ("Welcome to Sarajevo"), maintains the nasty tone right down to the explosive finale.

Because it's set in the 1950s, the book was contemporary when it was published. The movie, however, is a period piece, with country music and bleak visuals that suggest characters from "The Last Picture Show" could wander into frame at any moment.

The late Stanley Kubrick called Thompson's book "probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered." It was previously filmed in 1976, with Stacy Keach as Lou Ford.

Although there have been better adaptations of Thompson's novels ("After Dark, My Sweet," "Coup de Torchon"), this version will most likely be remembered, above all, for Affleck's scary work.

When he delivers a line like "I just don't want anyone else to get hurt," the casual nature of the character's feigned innocence is startling. Still, he really needs to do a light comedy. Soon.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

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