The main character, Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a deputy sheriff and a psychotic killer. Affleck perfectly plays a Norman Bates persona -harmless and polite on the outside, venomous murderer on the inside- although his Texan drawl was a bit hard to understand at times. To be fair, the production value is quite high as a period piece set in 1957. Attention to detail in the streets, antique cars and airplane, the family home with its picture perfect decor all makes for a visually appealing film. Aside from that, the story based on the novel by Jim Thompson was trite with barely developed characters getting so little screen time because most of the film was devoted to sadomasochistic sex and unconscionable violence especially towards the two women characters.
After the finale when everything is blown up (what a surprise, yawn), the director came out to answer questions as the stunned, silent audience blinked in disbelief at what just screened. The first question was about the gratuitous violence and Winterbottom cited the amount of violence that goes on in real life and this work is fiction based on a book he really enjoyed thus making it a form of entertainment. The second question continued upon the first, noting that the director made a conscious decision to sensationalize such extreme savagery just to make a point? What point was that? We got it after the first dozen smashes and kicks.
Perhaps the filmmaker and Trevor Groth who wrote the description in the Sundance catalog should look into sensitivity training because this is not "stylish" and does not "dazzle" all. It is unfortunate that a misogynistic film in 2010 can be labeled a "psychosexual thriller imbued with all the amoral energy of its genre". The audience response was powerful as they filed out of the theater in silence.