This is the second version of Jim Thompson's 1952 hard boiled classic to be brought to the screen. The first was the 1976 version that updated the action to the then present and moved the story from Texas to the mining town of Butte, Montana, which filled in for Central City. It was reviewed here:
This go round the story is set back in the 50s in oil patch Texas, and directed by Michael Winterbottom. The screenplay was written by John Curran The cinematography was by Marcel Zyskind. The music was by Joel Cadbury and Melissa Parmenter, with an excellent Country Western soundtrack that includes tracks by Little Willie John, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Hellen Forrest, Charlie Feathers, Eddie Noack, Beverly White, Hugh Farr, Ramona Redd, Lucky Millander, Ray Coats, Lonestar Playboys, Neal Merrit, Adolph Hofner & The Pearl Wranglers, and most appropriately Spade Cooley and The Western Swing Gang,
The film stars Casey Affleck as Lou Ford, a West Texas deputy sheriff. Ford is a true sociopath and it's Affleck's paedomorphic boy scout visage, that I guess, is supposed to create enough contrast to carry the Jekyll-Hyde character, no one would believe that this guy, a cliché aw shucks good ol' boy, could be a cold blooded sadomasochistic murderer. Think of a seriously twisted Andy Taylor or Barney Fife.
|Lou Ford (Affleck)|
Jessica Alba plays Joyce Lakeland, a prostitute, but instead of looking alluring, she looks like she could seriously use a bath. Kate Hudson plays Amy Stanton, Ford's schoolteacher girlfriend. Ned Beatty plays town big shot, Chester Conway, The rest of the cast has Tom Bower as Sheriff Bob Maples, Elias Koteas as Joe Rothman a union organizer, Simon Baker as Howard Hendricks, a county attorney. Bill Pullman as Billy Boy Walker, Brent Briscoe as the Bum, Matthew Maher as Deputy Jeff Plummer, Liam Aiken as Johnnie Pappas, Jay R. Ferguson as Elmer Conway, and Caitlin Turner as Helene.
|Joyce Lakeland (Alba)|
|Billy Boy Walker (Pullman)|
Where Burt Kennedy's version pulls back an lets the audience imagination run wild, (in the tradition of Classic Noir) with most of the psycho-sexual brutality, Winterbottom in contrast throws it in your face. It's almost, in the excessive way it's portrayed, a bit unrealistic.
When Keach's Ford beats Joyce to death in the '76 version, its brutal but quick, after a couple of jabs one powerful blow, convincingly to me, breaks her neck and it's over. In this 2010 version we linger uncomfortably on a series of facial blows by one lightweight string bean upon another, that should have turned a human head into a bloody pulp, but it doesn't. There is still an intact head rather than jelly. Think of the French film Irreversible (2002) to get an idea of how it should have looked.
Also, a lot of inordinate screen time is spent on depicting S&M bare-ass spanking, followed by incongruous rather tame depictions of lovemaking where the post orgasm participants are laying about the sheets in boxer shorts and panties. It gives you the impression that "Winterbottoms-up" has got a tent pole in his pants for a sort of variant of a canning fetish, and is more interested in ass than sex. I counted three depictions, and as if that wasn't enough we also get a lost treasure trove of B&W photos of blistered bottoms, Well the director is an Englishman, seems like that kink runs rampant in the bloodlines of "merry ol' England".
Both films leave their endings ambiguous but the 2010 goes to ridiculous extremes, see for yourself. Watch this version for it's fifties recreation, lots of ass shots, and its excellent soundtrack, watch the '76 version for the performances of Keach and Tyrrell, its noir-ish photography, and its Classic Noir supporting cast. Screencaps are from the IFC Films DVD 7/10