(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)
Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the latest by Michael Winterbottom, who I was already a big fan of (see my previous reviews of his 24 Hour Party People and 9 Songs), based on a classic 1952 noir by Jim Thompson, who I'm also a fan of, featuring a revelatory performance by Casey Affleck, who I've been growing to like more and more in just the past couple of years, and with it being a controversial release as well, because of the sickening amount of ultra-realistic violence on display, in this fairly simple tale of a respected small-town police officer in '50s Texas who no one realizes is also a woman-hating psychopathic serial rapist and killer.
The reality: Wow, was this creepy and great! But man, everything you've heard about the violence in this film is true, which in fact seems to be one of Winterbottom's main points: that unless you actually watch one of our villain Lou Ford's attacks in all its queasy details, it's simply impossible to understand just what kind of deranged killer he actually is, and how astounding it is that he's able to keep this a secret from everyone else for as long as he does (because of course, in good Mid-Century-Modernist noir fashion, it turns out that Ford's issues stem all the way back to his abusive childhood, with him now having spent decades learning how to carefully hide his mother-fueled penchant for sexual violence against nearly every woman he comes to know). Ah, but also in good noir style, this carefully concealed inner life comes tumbling down around him over the course of the film, exactly through little random throwaway mistakes that he hadn't even expected, much less planned a solution for, the precise thing that keeps this thriller clicking along at such a great pace, as Ford paints himself into ever-deeper corners and then somehow miraculously keeps managing to get out of them at the last moment. Combine this, then, with an attention to period-costume detail that would make even Merchant and Ivory proud, and you have what is certainly one of the most exciting and entertaining films of the fall, and what I believe will be a dark-horse Oscar contender despite its controversial nature. Winterbottom is one of the most fascinating filmmakers currently working on the planet, and you owe it to yourself to check out his work if you never have.
Strangest piece of trivia: A whole series of high-profile directors have tried to adapt this almost since the original novel first came out half a century ago, with such famed actors attached to it over the years as Marlon Brando in the '50s, Marilyn Monroe in the '60s, Tom Cruise in the '80s, and Brad Pitt in the '90s (under the direction of Quentin Tarantino, no less).
Worth your time? Yes, yes, yes!