WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. This was just a gigantic miscalculation. Parts of this are done well. The biggest problem (and not the only one) is with the casting, especially of Alba. I think she does a fine job acting, BUT… The intended shock that they try and deliver using Alba does not work. You know it’s Jessica Alba the famous actress. You know she’s not really getting beaten up. You may say, “Of course not, idiot! They’re actors!” But I say that her role REQUIRED an unknown actress to have the scene be believable and as violent as intended. WIth Alba in the role, the continued beating just seems gratuitous and again…”That’s Jessica Alba. She’s not really being beaten up.” It had no impact, at least with me and really just turned me against the film instead of the lead anti-protagonist (or whatever you’d call Affleck’s character in this).
Another problem is some of film is illogical and comes off just as the director (Michael Winterbottom) trying to convince the viewer that he’s an edgy filmmaker. The eventual stabbing of Alba’s character was completely forced and unrealistic. Bringing the victim to the accused and standing WAY behind her so as to let the villain protagonist (WHATEVER you call him) predictably stab her was poorly executed (no pun intended).
The film revolves around a small town officer of the law that secretly is a complete woman-hating dirtbag capable of extreme violence and murder. Casey Affleck does an adequate job of portraying the character. That’s not a surprise. He’s a good actor. The problem is that the film doesn’t appear to want to say anything about what’s transpiring other than to depict it.
The film is set in the 50s and takes a 1950s approach to Freudian psychology involving Affleck’s mother, wife and (Alba playing) hooker mistress. I personally have never cared for films that center on a villain being a villain for the entire film unless there is some sort of point to be made (see 1978’s Straight Time for a proper example).
Perhaps Jim Thompson’s book (which this was taken from) said something worthwhile. I have not read it. I do know there was one of the worst parts of the book removed for the film, I guess to make it more palatable, which is ridiculous with the kind of violence toward women that the lead perpetrates in this. I will state that I have a problem with films about a villain doing bad deeds for an entire film. It’s just not interesting to me… unless there is some sort of reasonable point.
This seemed more intent I’ve only seen one other Michael Winterbottom film (Code 46) and thought that one was a masterpiece, so I don’t know how he would end up making a film this polar opposite. This will make mysogynists happy, though. It made my Worst 10 Films of 2010.
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