Under normal circumstances, I usually have my review written in my head during the drive home and then when I get to the computer, I spend an hour or so making it look as nice as possible. Then it’s done and I move on.

I saw Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me yesterday evening, slept on it and I’m just starting to get my thoughts together on it.

For the vast majority of its running time, 95% or more, The Killer Inside Me is very good indeed, due in no small way to Casey Affleck’s disturbingly assured portrayal of the sociopath, Lou Ford. Affleck is the spine to the whole film — to the best of my memory, he’s in every scene — and despite the absolutely appalling acts his character commits, he has a very engaging presence, which leaves the viewer affected, disturbed and a whole host of other adjectives and emotions.

The movie is set in a small town in 1950s Texas and as Ford says at the start, it’s the sort of place where you say “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, ma’am.” This bright, post-war setting, brimming with naïve optimism gives the events a more unsettling twist.

Lou Ford is a young, deputy sheriff, pillar-of-the-community kinda guy with a beautiful girlfriend, Amy (Kate Hudson). Softly spoken and polite, he seems almost a juvenile when we first meet him. When he’s asked to chase Joyce the prostitute (Jessica Alba) out of town, they have an argument, she hits him, he hits her back and in a move reminiscent to Dynasty, they end up getting it on. And so begins a rather murky sadomasochistic relationship but it’s when Joyce reveals that she’s also been servicing the son of a local big-wig property developer, Chester Conway (Ned Beatty) and is hatching a blackmail plot, that things take a really dark turn. Ford decides to avenge his brother’s death by framing Conway’s son for Joyce’s murder and to do that, he has to kill Joyce. And he does this by punching her to death.

This attack probably feels like it lasts longer than it actually does and we probably don’t see as much as we think we do, but by anyone’s standards, this is a shocking, disturbing moment and I found it impossible not to look away while Ford caves Joyce’s face in. What’s perhaps just as shocking is Ford apologising to Joyce as he’s doing it and Joyce re-iterating her love for him. When it was over, not only was I relieved, I felt a bit sick.

Conway’s son, in a marked contrast, is dispatched with a few bullets to the head.

Joyce, somehow, survives but is comatose and over the rest of the film, Ford’s mask of sanity slowly slips while he attempts to cover his tracks. More men swifty meet their maker and another woman has a slow, lingering death. Meanwhile, there’s a sense that the townsfolk aren’t as fooled by Ford as they like to think but this isn’t truly developed and in the end, this possible silent complicity could be put down to Ford’s own perception.

The actual noir aspects of this are spot on and the plot complications and tangles, perhaps aided by the setting, reminded me of something like Blood Simple. Judging the film by 95% of its content, it’s actually great stuff. The leads are just wonderful and no one in the ensemble lets the side down. Winterbottom at the helm is always in control and uses open spaces and heat and dust to great effect. The soundtrack, which flirts between classics and hillbilly country, perfectly matches the line that Ford walks; a fence that Ford claims at one point will rip him in two, straight down the middle. My only real complaint is that the complexity of the initial plot could’ve been laid out more clearly. By the end, I’m pretty sure I got everything I was meant to get but there were moments during the first half hour or so where I felt lost and my concentration drifted while I tried to piece it back together.

But it’s the two scenes, the other 5%, that will stay in the minds of those who go to see it. Charges of misogyny have been laid at the door due to the way the camera lingers — perhaps too lovingly — on Joyce’s destruction and how all the male deaths are treated in an opposite manner (one of them even happens off-screen). Is it misogynistic? Well, Ford certainly is. I don’t think, though, that Winterbottom’s movie is intended to leave its audience with anything less than utter disgust at his actions and its purpose could be to show the effects of violence. When someone gets hit, they fall down. It’s not a glamorous business in the real world.

I think, though, like Ford, the movie walks a very thin line through a particularly grey area and I’m certainly not surprised that people could see it as misogynistic. American Psycho, book and film, has the sense to portray its male characters as largely weak, shallow individuals. Patrick Bateman, for example, can’t get it up unless he’s absorbed into his possibly imagined world of S&M torture and on many levels, he’s a bit of a failure. The Killer Inside Me doesn’t use any such insurance policies and so as a result, I find it harder to argue fully in its defence.

That said, it’s a film worth seeing and it’s nice to be able to say that someone in the Affleck family might be on the receiving end of an Oscar rather than a Razzie come award-season.