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Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me”

Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me"

Observers of Michael Winterbottom’s hyperactive career have always struggled with the question of authorship, wondering whether the tireless British director, an almost frustratingly nimble change-up artist seemingly comfortable in every genre, has a verifiable artistic signature, or if it even matters. His sleek new Southwestern retro-noir The Killer Inside Me, an arrestingly acted, often sensationally disorienting, mostly bang-on adaptation of Jim Thompson’s chilly 1952 pulp novel about a small-town lawman with incomprehensibly psychopathic impulses, raises more of these pesky auteurist questions than it answers. Working from a script by John Curran, Winterbottom hews closely to the book’s first-person narrative, drawing us into the Manichaean mind of a deranged young West Texas sheriff with unapologetically dogmatic faith in the power of Thompson’s words, dialogue, and personal vision. Abandoning the freewheeling ingenuity of his previous period adaptations (Jude, The Claim, Tristram Shandy), as well as the frenetic pacing of docu-realistic dramas like In This World or A Mighty Heart, Winterbottom’s latest effort, though enthralling on the whole, sometimes feels too literal for its own good. Read Damon Smith’s review of The Killer Inside Me.

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