Film Review: 'Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez' Is a Whodunit That Doesn't Tell Us What Did It
Aaron Hernandez didn't need to become monstrously entangled in the murders of three people to exist as a fascinating story. He overcame some childhood obstacles to become a charismatic championship college football star and a hometown hero with the dynastic New England Patriots.
That could've been enough.
But “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez'' is, of course, driven by the fact that Hernandez was also a murderer, convicted of killing friend Odin Lloyd in 2013 and accused of killing two other men in 2012.
As compelling as the story is, though, and as compelling as the Netflix telling of it is, the titillating documentary is bogged down by a "whodunit'' problem:
It never quite guides the viewer to understanding "who done it.''
Tossed against the wall in large volume are the supposed "keys'' "Inside The Mind.'' But the number of theories posed as to the root of Hernandez' behavior mush into one another and clash into one another and any search for clarity into that "mind'' is unrewarded.
Hernandez had a strict and macho father who around Bristol, Conn., was known as "The King.'' Were Dad's demands the problem? Maybe, but it's also suggested that when Dad died when Aaron was 16, the boy was left rudderless. (There's a similar storytelling conflict later, when some Patriots teammates indicate he was "quiet and to himself'' while other Patriots teammates indicate he was "always upbeat and fun.'')
Was he allegedly physically abused as a boy? Maybe. Sexually abused? Possibly.
Or could it all be Mom's fault? She does come across as an uncaring witch who followed up her husband's death by immediately shacking up with another family member, and who later - after Hernandez signed a $40-million contract but was then imprisoned - phones him inside the jail to guilt-trip him over not having gifted her $1 million of it.
Or could it have been evil friends? Or smoking weed? Or permissiveness at the University of Florida? Or even the Patriots' alleged willingness to allow his problems to ferment as long as he kept them out of team headquarters and in a dingy apartment in which the club stashed him?
The Patriots come off poorly here, starring a smug team owner Robert Kraft appearing at Hernandez' trial to testify against a player with whom he was close - complete with Kraft's cutesy response to the court's request that he identify what he does for a living.
"Whatever they tell me to do,'' the billionaire Kraft smirks, oozing mock-humility.
The “Killer Inside'' theorizing becomes overflowing and convoluted. Did Hernandez have a learning disorder? Was he spoiled by money? Did he just enjoy "playing gangster''?
And then the dual bombshells ...
One: Could the core issue have been the closeted nature of his alleged bisexuality? His former teammate, the high-school QB who also claims to be his former lover, joins with his own father to speak into the camera with such theatrical goofiness that they seem to be pitching their own Netflix sitcom.
Maybe the tattoos, guns, night clubs and drugs were Aaron's "beard''? ... Not counting the "beard'' represented by his actual fiancee, the long-suffering young woman who is the mother of his baby. The film irresponsibly suggests that maybe Odin Lloyd was murdered because he knew of Hernandez' sexuality, a concept offered with no adjoining facts.
The sexuality angle gets a great deal of airtime here, and it's frankly difficult to discern if that's because it merits it or because it's so salacious.
Two: Is it football's fault? No, not the money and the power part - the CTE part. It's established that Hernandez’s brain was damaged, a result of a young lifetime full of helmeted collisions. Only briefly is someone allowed to note that CTE doesn't automatically transform a person into a murderer.
Unfortunately, Hernandez' 2017 prison suicide (yes, there is scandalous speculation about that, too) buries any first-hand insight into motives and actions.
The viewer's best guess at an answer about what created the "Killer Inside''? A perfect-storm cocktail of all these factors, But we're only guessing, because “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez'' is a murder mystery, a "whodunit''' that - powerful as it is - never actually solves the crime.