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Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is surrounded by problems in his West Texas county. It all starts when the Sheriff (Tom Bower) sends him to check on Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), a prostitute. Repressed memories from his childhood trigger actions from which there is no turning back. Meanwhile Amy (Kate Hudson), the local girl he is dating, has started making demands. Labour union boss Joe Rothman (Elias Koteas) is leaning on him too, as is wealthy businessman Chester Conway (Ned Beatty) trying to protect his son Elmer (Jay R. Ferguson), who lusts after Joyce. Murder victims start piling up and soon Lou's sadistic, psychopathic tendencies become evident. But it seems that those pursuing him also have a secret.

Review by Louise Keller :
A lethal brew of misogynistic, sadistic horrors, Michael Winterbottom's carefully crafted psychological noir thriller, as told from the point of view of a killer, is disturbing in the extreme. It is the subject matter (based on Jim Thompson's novel) and treatment that are at issue; cinematically, Winterbottom has created an evocative work. Love, lust, murder and blackmail all swirl together in an ugly whirlwind of betrayal and revenge. The most shocking aspect of the graphic violence is the context in which it is shown: brutality in which the killer is totally detached and unaffected. The resulting film is one that shocks, disgusts and sickens.

Having said that, I must also say that Winterbottom lures us into the small town Texas county in the 50s with great skill. The mood is brooding, like a dark shadow that lingers, uninvited. Music is effectively used as counterpoint to the action and the production design is excellent. But our journey is a sordid experience, after which I felt as though I needed a good scrub.

Our first hint that there is more to Casey Affleck's Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford than meets the eye, is when he goes to prostitute Joyce Lakeland's (Jessica Alba) house, rips off her panties and gets rough with his belt, instead of sending her packing. He is drawn to her 'like wind turned onto a dying fire'. She is not the only one who seems to like it rough; Lou's girlfriend Amy (Kate Hudson) is not adverse to his sadistic ways and rough sex as she sheds her clothes and decency for him. The two deplorably violent scenes involving both women are pure misogyny and painful to watch. This is Lou's story; there is a chilling aspect to his voice over narration as the story is told from his point of view. We are inside the mind of a killer.

Some of the dialogue is muddy and Affleck mumbles throughout, often making it difficult to hear every word. His depiction of a heartless killer, triggered by repressed memories of childhood violence hits the mark most of the time, however. Alba is sensual as Joyce and Hudson's Amy is a fine contrast in a different kind of role for her. The women, from different sides of the track, have more in common than we think at first glance: they both truly love Lou.

The storyline weaves in and out of the lives of various characters, each of which plays a part in Lou's journey. There's Ned Beatty's stalwart businessman Chester Conway, Elias Koteas's Joe Rothman ('save the bullshit for the birds') and Tom Bower's Sheriff ('it's always lightest just before it's dark'). The film's best scene, between Lou and Liam Aiken's Johnnie is notable for its subtlety and understatement, proving once again that violence is often most effective when not shown onscreen. But by the time Bill Pullman's Billy Boy Walker appears ('a weed is a plant out of place'), the film has lost its way and we are left suffocating in gloom.

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(US, 2010)

CAST: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas, Tom Bower, Simon Baker, Bill Pullman,

PRODUCER: Andrew Eaton, Bradford L. Schlei

DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom

SCRIPT: John Curran (novel by Jim Thompson)


EDITOR: Mags Arnold

MUSIC: Melissa Parmenter


RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes



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