The film, which stars Casey Affleck as psychotic killer Lou Ford, has divided audiences with its gory content, including one disturbing scene in which Jessica Alba's character is beaten until she is no longer recognisable.
A review of the film's screening at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (10) by Damon Wise, a critic for Empire magazine, reads, "What's not very standard, however, is the violence... The cruelty in this film goes way beyond the endurance level of the average viewer... There is no artful surrealism, just bleak, bloody and unjustifiable punishment, most of it (but not only) directed against women."
But Winterbottom is baffled by the furore over the film, insisting he didn't include the shocking scenes just to provoke "controversy".
He says, "I've been a little surprised that people have found it so hard to watch the two main violent scenes. I don't think they are that visually graphic compared to other films. I think it's more to do with Casey's performance and the character of Lou and the intimacy of those scenes."
And the moviemaker is adamant he was just trying to remain faithful to the 1952 pulp novel of the same name by Jim Thompson, on which the film is based.
He adds, "I was trying to make a very literal version of the book, and the scenes are shocking in the book - they make you stop. So should it be shocking when Lou punches (Alba's character) Joyce. It should be as shocking as it would be in real life. But not in the sense that, 'Oh this'll be great because it'll cause a lot of controversy'."
By all appearances The Killer Inside Me’s setting of Central City Texas is the epitome of the cinematic small town complete with slow–drawl country music tunes a businessman who practically owns the town and a doe-eyed lady who most of the townsfolk love but whose heart belongs to the deputy sheriff. Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) though is no ordinary deputy sheriff as we learn when he is ordered to evict a local prostitute Joyce Lakeland (the always gorgeous Jessica Alba) because she has taken up with the son of town boss Chester Conway (Ned Beatty). Unfortunately for Conway this is Jessica Alba we're talking about! After a rather interesting exchange with Joyce Ford takes up with her himself and hatches a plan for them to skip town together. When Ford’s fiancé Amy Stanton (a fetching Kate Hudson) suspects an affair between the two trouble ensues and a maelstrom of murder mischief and mayhem soon envelops Central City.
Based on the novel by Jim Thompson who also wrote The Grifters and The Getaway as well as screenplays for Stanley Kubrick’s films The Killing and Paths of Glory The Killer Inside Me is one of the better films of its ilk wherein the “hero” is actually a disturbed — and disturbing — individual. Directed by Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart) and featuring a supporting cast of actors that could each carry their own film (and indeed some have) including Bill Pullman Simon Baker and Elias "I’m not Christopher Meloni and he is not me" Koteas this movie should be penciled into everyone’s must–see list.
To answer the main question on the minds of the panting fanboys: Yes both of the film's buxom beauties Alba and Hudson show heaping gobs of skin. Unfortunately this is film noir a genre in which attractive female characters seldom survive to see the final credits roll.
With that in mind a word of warning: The Killer Inside Me does get a bit gratuitous with its violence and while it's not Bad Lieutenant- or David Lynch-level gratuitous it's still out-there blunt-trauma-to-the-head violent. Winterbottom makes the dangerous choice of rarely cutting away from the looks on the faces of those involved in these scenes and we as viewers become willing accomplices in Ford’s actions. In the film’s defense the violence is actually used for character development and there are enough moments of subtle bleak black humor to counterbalance it. But if you're the squeamish type you might wish to stay home.
Long out of the shadow of his more famous brother Casey Affleck comes out of his own shadow in The Killer Inside Me creating a character as charismatically menacing as a villainous protagonist could be; an Anton Chigurh you could bring home to meet your family. With no shred of his “Baastaahn” accent apparent Affleck speaks in a southern drawl that sounds like he's about to crack at any instant; because usually he is. It's the kind of role that will be talked about for years (if this film gets the proper promotion that is) and in my opinion will make him a very early candidate for Best Actor.
A Mighty Heart is based on a tragedy of which we all know the gruesome outcome: the capture and eventual murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) whose execution footage was widely seen on the Internet. On Jan. 23 2002 in Karachi Pakistan Danny thought he was heading to an interview regarding “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid and his pregnant wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie) herself a journalist thought the two of them were going to have dinner afterwards; both of them were wrong. Danny gets tricked by a cab driver and later his interviewee ending up in the hands of his kidnappers and eventual murderers. For the next several weeks Mariane—with help from Danny’s associate (Archie Panjabi); a Karashi police detective (Irrfan Khan); an American security agent (Will Patton); and Danny’s Wall Street Journal superior (Denis O'Hare) and colleague (Gary Wilmes)—embarks on her own frantic investigation tracking any and all leads retracing steps and most importantly remaining optimistic. Her efforts as we now know were in vain but her spirit was never broken. In fact Mariane winds up with the ultimate keepsake of her slain husband: their son Adam to whom she dedicates her memoir of the tragedy entitled A Mighty Heart. Angelina Jolie is the unequivocal heart of A Mighty Heart both on screen and off. On screen her fame is almost too large for small fare like this but this particular movie which boasts the most compelling story imaginable would be the least compelling movie imaginable without her performance. Off screen even Mariane Pearl’s highly regarded memoir would probably not have been enough to greenlight the big-screen version without a Jolie-sized endorsement. It’s easy to forget that Jolie is an actress before a paprazzi target but this movie refreshes our memory. She may not necessarily deserve the Oscar but the writing is on the wall what with the Best Actress Trifecta: played-down looks a real-life character and a foreign accent. There’s also a gut-wrenching scene—you can imagine the point in the story at which it occurs—which might as well have had “Future Oscar Reel” scrolling across the bottom. The other actors are rendered almost nonexistent. Futterman who wrote the Capote screenplay is an eerily perfect match for Pearl all the way down to his first name but barely appears in the movie. Veteran actor Patton meanwhile must have been a dead-on physical match for his real-life character because his performance consistently seems on a different wavelength as compared to the others. The two prominent foreign actors Panjabi (Bend It Like Beckham) and Khan (The Namesake) greatly outperform Patton in this case but luckily everyone is given a free pass aboard the Jolie Train. British director Michael Winterbottom’s A Mighty Heart is an Angelina Jolie away from being totally insignificant. Granted it’s Mariane Pearl’s story to tell and Jolie is meant to have the spotlight shining solely and brightly on her but where Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) intended for the movie to seem visceral it is actually suspenseless. Recent fact-for-fact successes United 93 and Zodiac two stylistically different works of nonfiction excelled because their directors managed to squeeze out suspense from stories whose endings we already knew. In Heart Winterbottom seems more concerned with getting the facts and cinematography right than taking us inside Mariane Pearl’s head or plight and thus the movie could've actually benefited from some embellishment here and there. After the success of The Road to Guantanamo Winterbottom is still deep in docudrama mode but this isn’t a documentary and it’s not particularly dramatic. For the most part the talented director’s Heart is just in the wrong place.
XXX still marked the top spot at the box office with $23 million.
Signs held strongly in second place with $19.5 million.
Blue Crush made a nice splash in third place, opening to $15.2 million.
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams was a quiet fourth with $11.6 million. Austin Powers in Goldmember was still laughing in fifth place with $8.7 million. A major expansion in its 18th week of release sent My Big Fat Greek Wedding into sixth place with a big fat $5.8 million.
The weekend's other wide opening, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, was orbiting in box office outer space with a cold as ice $2.2 million in tenth place.
With no new blockbusters driving ticket sales, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- were down about 3 percent from last year with $106.8 million versus $110.4 million. It was the fifth consecutive weekend in which the marketplace was down compared to last year.
THE TOP TEN
Revolution Studios and Columbia's PG-13 rated action adventure thriller XXX showed strong legs, holding on to first place in its second week with a solid ESTIMATED $23.0 million (-48%) at 3,388 theaters (+14 theaters; $6,789 per theater). Its cume is approximately $84.9 million.
XXX's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Vin Diesel, Asia Argento and Marton Csokas.
"Down only 48 percent is one of the best holds of the summer," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"It's a tick better (hold) than even Signs last week (which had dropped 51 percent), which obviously is a good holding picture going forward. It looks like we are, too. And it's a tick better than what Fast and the Furious' drop was, as well (last summer with a 50 percent fall in its second weekend)."
Asked where XXX is heading, Blake replied, "Fast and the Furious is as good a guidebook as any and, as I say, we're tracking better. At the end of 10 days, they had in $77.8 million and had had a second weekend of $20 million, down 50 percent, so we're definitely tracking better just about every day so far. They ended up with a very nice total of $144.5 million. I'd have to say we're setting our sights slightly higher than that. To be honest, as we look ahead there's a lot less to stop us."
Looking ahead, Blake said, "I think, clearly, XXX and Signs are the two pictures emerging out of the summer that are really going to get sampled as the summer winds down and fall begins. We are number one for the second week in a row, joining Spider-Man, Star Wars, Sum of All Fears and Men in Black II, very nice company, as the only pictures to be number one two weeks in a row this summer. And we've got a real shot to be number one three weeks in a row, which nobody has done. Nobody made it three weeks in a row. Spider-Man had (competition from the opening of) Star Wars in week three. And Star Wars had Sum of All Fears.
"I don't share the thought that the opening was anything but terrific, but I think it does make the point that if you can't get open to a big level even though it's a little harder to produce the box car numbers in late summer the advantage is that you can hold for a while if you're a picture that plays. And this picture certainly plays."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated supernatural thriller Signs held very well in second place in its third week with a steady ESTIMATED $19.5 million (-34%) at 3,344 theaters (+34 theaters; $5,843 per theater). Its cume is approximately $150.7 million.
Directed by M Night Shyamalan, it stars Mel Gibson.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated romantic surfer girl comedy Blue Crush opened third to a sexy ESTIMATED $15.18 million at 3,002 theaters ($5,055 per theater).
Directed by John Stockwell and produced by Brian Grazer and Karen Kehela, it stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake and Mika Boorem.
"The Blue Crush results are a solid opening for what is a fun film that delivers to its target audience," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning.
Focusing on what went in to achieving the solid launch, Rocco noted, "We're very proud of what everybody (at the studio) has done. Certainly, marketing created an incredible hype for young females and distribution did a tremendous job in dating the film. I think the producers of the film delivered something that was very different and unique.
"We have a picture that has a subject matter (bikini babes at the beach and summer romance) that is 40 years old. To take it and reinvent this old genre for today's audience is quite an accomplishment. And I'm very pleased with the results."
Miramax/Dimension Films' PG rated family comedy sequel Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams slipped one peg to fourth place in its second week with a low energy ESTIMATED $11.6 million (-31%) at 3,307 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,508 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.7 million.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
New Line's PG-13 rated comedy sequel Austin Powers in Goldmember fell one notch to fifth place in its fourth week with a less frenetic ESTIMATED $8.7 million (-33%) at 3,113 theaters (-395 theaters; $2,795 per theater). Its cume is approximately $183.9 million.
Directed by Jay Roach, it stars Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Caine.
Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued to expand in its 18th week via IFC Films, rising two slots to sixth place with an outstanding ESTIMATED $5.8 million at 1,060 theaters (+337 theaters; $5,472 per theater). Its cume is approximately $52.8 million, heading for $60 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Warner Bros.' R rated thriller Blood Work dropped two posts to seventh place in its second week with a less thrilling ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-33%) at 2,525 theaters
(theater count unchanged; $1,901 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.3 million.
Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Eastwood.
DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox's R rated adult appeal drama Road to Perdition slipped one peg to eighth place in its sixth week, holding very well with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-9%) at 1,914 theaters (-297 theaters; $1,999 per theater). Its cume is approximately $90.3 million.
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's low budget PG rated family comedy Master of Disguise dropped three levels to ninth place in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-35%) at 2,137 theaters (-431 theaters; $1,544 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.4 million.
Directed by Perry Andelin Blake, it stars Dana Carvey.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Castle Rock Entertainment's opening via Warner Bros. of its (in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment) PG-13 rated sci-fi action comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash to a soft ESTIMATED $2.15 million at 2,320 theaters ($927 per theater).
Directed by Ron Underwood, it stars Eddie Murphy and was produced by Martin Bregman, Michael Bregman and Louis A. Stroller.
Pluto, a very expensive special effects picture, was originally developed at Universal, which put it in turnaround years ago. With Pluto, having bounced around Warners' release schedule for some time, insiders were not anticipating a good opening.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Focus Features' romantic drama Possession to a very encouraging ESTIMATED $1.61 million at 270 theaters ($5,975 per theater).
Directed by Neil LaBute, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.
"We had a good weekend," Focus Features distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "It competed nicely in the marketplace. It ranked up among the more competitive films in a lot of the multiplexes -- in the top three and four and five ranks.
That's not bad considering XXX and Signs are still pounding in there. In commercial houses we were very, very well attended. And in the upscale and art houses around the country we were ranking in the number one and two positions.
"So we're really happy with this opening. It puts us in a position to think that we can persist very nicely through the upcoming weeks and months and serve a demo out there that really isn't being served aggressively at this stage of the game outside of what Greek Wedding is doing. A lot of those people have seen Greek Wedding, so we can easily fill that slot for an alternative kind of programming picture."
Looking ahead, Foley explained, "Next week we're going to expand the top 17 markets a bit that we're in right now. Then on Labor Day we'll go wide with the picture. I'm very, very happy that the country embraced the film."
Paramount Classics' PG rated German romantic comedy Mostly Martha opened to a hopeful ESTIMATED $41,000 at 2 theaters ($20,445 per theater).
Written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, it stars Martina Gedeck.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated comedy The Good Girl went wider in its second week with a still impressive ESTIMATED $0.83 million at 60 theaters (+56 theaters; $13,800 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Miguel Arteta, it stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.
"We had a very, very good expansion," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
"We added 56 theaters in an additional 18 cities (for a total of) 20 cities across the country. It's terrific. The regional cities have supported the film extremely well.
"The four holdover theaters held extremely well even though we added quite a few theaters in Manhattan and L.A. We picked up very good momentum. The regional reviews were very, very strong around the country. So we're quite optimistic about the next wave of our expansion."
This Friday, Gilula said, "We'll open up in 29 more cities and expand further into 50 cities. So we should be on Friday, Aug. 23 in approximately 175 theaters. The following week, which is Labor Day weekend, we'll expand nationally to 500 or more theaters."
Miramax's PG-13 romantic comedy Tadpole expanded in its fifth week to a slow ESTIMATED $0.31 million at 151 theaters (+59 theaters; $2,019 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by Gary Winick, it stars Sigourney Weaver, John Ritter, Bebe Neuwirth and Aaron Stanford.
Focus Features' R rated The Kid Stays in the Picture, the "unbelievable true tale of Robert Evans," continued to widen in its fourth week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 56 theaters (+11 theaters; $3,257 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Produced and directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein and produced by Graydon Carter, Kid is based on the book by Robert Evans.
"It's very steady and very solid in the previously expanded markets," Focus Features' Jack Foley said. "It didn't experience much of a drop in them, particularly in New York and L.A., where it's really got a great foothold."
United Artists' R rated comedy 24 Hour Party People, released through MGM, expanded in its second week to a still happy ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 18 theaters (+16 theaters; $8,674 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Steve Coogan.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $106.84 million, down 3.19 percent from last year when they totaled $110.37 million.
Key films were down about 21.71 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $136.44 million.
Last year, Universal's second week of American Pie 2 was first with $21.1 million at 3,072 theaters ($6,870 per theater); and New Line's third week of Rush Hour 2 was second with $19.02 million at 3,080 theaters ($6,177 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $40.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $42.5 million.
Cambridge-educated Tony Wilson is a young but established TV journalist in Manchester who is fed up with his silly assignments be they hang-gliding adventures or an interview with a midget who cares for elephants. When one evening he catches an unknown band called the Sex Pistols at a poorly attended show he becomes a believer in what is the new and rebellious punk movement. Taking a chance he opens a club to give new punk bands exposure becoming a major promoter of the punk movement. But hardly the exemplary capitalist he's motivated by gut feelings and passion and his belief in Manchester as the epicenter of new music. Wilson does discover several bands that go on to varying degrees of success and notoriety including Joy Division/New Order and the Happy Mondays but punk values and the lifestyle take their toll. There are the premature deaths marital breakups including Wilson's first marriage and drug lords who wield too much influence in Wilson's club. His own loosey-goosey ways with his record business and artist contracts leads to his label's demise. Through it all Wilson keeps his day job as TV personality and never lets go his allegiance to his beloved Manchester flag.
Thanks to 24 Hour Party People Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson may well become a star in Yank country. Known to TV audiences in the U.K. Wilson with a background in comedy is a brilliant and compelling presence as the film's drolly ironic and obviously learned hero. All supporting roles here are superb including Andy Serkis as doomed and messed up producer Martin Hannett Rob Brydon as Ryan Letts and Shirley Henderson as Wilson's first wife Shirley.
Michael Winterbottom who so brilliantly directed Welcome to Sarajevo but disappointed with The Claim again triumphs here. Employing an arsenal of special effects and using DV Winterbottom perfectly captures an era a rock movement a place and the authentic spirit of a hugely intelligent and appealing maverick entrepreneur whose field of vision extended well above the bottom line.
Life is hard the drinkin' is hard and the women are hard in the roughneck California town of Kingdom Come established and run by wealthy powerful gold miner Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan) after he became rich off the claim he bought off a lonely prospector. Over the years Dillon's felt a bit guilty about his riches though seeing as how he got the land by selling his wife and baby daughter to the prospector. Ah well he's made a good life for himself and chanteuse mistress Lucia (Milla Jovovich) and things are looking even better. The railroad surveyors headed by Donald Dalgliesh (Wes Bentley) have just come in to inspect the area and if all goes well the railroad will pass through Kingdom Come. Also in on the last train? Dillon's now terminally ill wife Elena (Nastassja Kinski) and grown-up daughter Hope (Sarah Polley).
A stoic Mullan doesn't express much sentiment about anything; when you consider he's supposed to feel guilty as hell about what he did you'd expect a wee bit more emotion. He does a lot of staring out windows and some hollering. Bearded and shaggy Bentley fits into the Old West quite nicely although his character could have been more dynamic. Polley's Hope was disappointingly flat too. Where was the guy in charge of character development when they wrote this script? Kinski perhaps because she didn't have that much to do gives a credible performance as a devoted mother whose only desire is to protect her child before she dies. But it's Jovovich playing the most vibrant character in the movie who gives a surprisingly remarkable turn as an abrasive fiery dancehall prostitute.
If you like watching a generally unattractive bunch live the hard life in the bleak snowy Rockies this one's for you. The film definitely portrays a harsh pioneer town as one would imagine it beyond the shoot-'em-up cowboy stuff of typical Westerns. But prepare yourself for a long haul. Winterbottom takes the mildly interesting but already melodramatic story and infuses it with so many stylistic visuals and sweeping scenes--not to mention too many unnecessary characters--that it slows to an interminable squirm-in-your-seat pace. Michael Nyman's score is about the only moving thing about it. Jovovich sings too much.
Several intertwined plot strands revolve around three sisters struggling with affairs of the heart in middle-class London over the span of a single weekend. Lonely waitress Nadia (Gina McKee) devotedly follows up on personals ads but can't seem to find a decent bloke. Expecting mother Molly (Canada's Molly Parker) gets a shock when her motorscooter messenger husband (John Simm) doesn't come back from work one night. Oversexed hairdresser Debbie (Shirley Henderson) locks horns with her irresponsible ex (Ian Hart) over the care of their young son (Peter Marfleet).
Laurence Coriat's actor-friendly screenplay provides juicy fodder for the talented ensemble cast. McKee ("Croupier") is touching as an attractive sensitive woman who has been passed over in the romance department. Hart ("Backbeat") does his patented sarcastic wanker routine as the guy who can't do anything right. Kika Markham and Jack Shepherd paint a memorably bleak portrait of loveless marriage as the sisters' profoundly unhappy parents.
Heavy-drama helmer Winterbottom ("Welcome to Sarajevo") shot this intimate character piece with a handheld 16mm camera in real locations and the effect can be riveting in the manner of Denmark's influential Dogme films. Winterbottom navigates the challenging multistory format successfully for the most part though there are some dead spots -- minor plot strands about an estranged brother and a withdrawn young neighbor who pines for Nadia seem pointlessly tacked on. Juxtaposed interestingly against the everyday urban imagery Michael Nyman's orchestral score lends the piece a sweeping operatic quality though the effect can be over the top at times.