Texas Killing Fields

| February 24, 2012

Texas Killing Fields is a film pregnant with possibilities and neo-noir intrigue. Unfortunately it never lives up to its potential, resulting in an unfulfilling and unmemorable story. The debut of director Ami Canaan Mann chronicles two mismatched police detectives tracking a serial killer across the bayous of Texas City, Texas.
Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a New York City detective who has just relocated with his family to Texas. His partner is the cantankerous Mike Souder (Sam Worthington), a long time Texas City resident who is very familiar with the dark terrain of the area, both geographical and emotional. When several girls go missing, only to be found dead on the aforementioned fields, the detectives follow obscure leads taking them through the hellish, swampy terrain to confront natives who truly look like they could be capable of murder. When the detectives aren’t busy with their grizzly case, they try to keep the young Anne Sliger (Chloe Moretz) out of trouble as her reckless mother doesn’t much care to.
There are a lot of interesting threads in the story that are given great importance only to fizzle out, amounting to a lot of potential with no follow through. The atmosphere, setting, and fractured narrative are fascinating but can’t cover up the many issues in the story. Nothing may be riveting, but at least it looks gritty and well-shot. One of those interesting threads deals with a detective in another jurisdiction, Pam Stall (ever-excellent Jessica Chastain) who just so happens to be Souder’s former wife, dealing with similar cases.
The acting is hit and miss. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can’t make up for the issues in the script although he tries to imbue his role with gravitas and emotional purpose. Sam Worthington’s accent slips far too often to be ignored and comes across quite blankly. Jessica Chastain continues to surprise, giving her character the most depth. But, a lot of these issues can be traced back to the script written by Don Ferrarone. For a film based on real events it surprisingly lacks the detail and verve that would make the characters feel real. There are some very interesting set ups and characters but they are never developed fully to be memorable beyond the credits.
Ami Canaan Mann may be unduly burdened with the comparisons to her father, Michael Mann (who produced this film), director of such films as Heat and Public Enemies. She’s in the same playing field of neo-noir and the prickly underpinnings of criminality. Unfortunately, she doesn’t share her father’s tight grip on structure and theme.
Ultimately, Texas Killing Fields feels like a movie without purpose or urgency; no character feels real, the plot is an opaque mess leaving us with great atmosphere and a catchy title but no resolution. With all these problems it’s unsurprising that Texas Killing Fields ends with both a bang and a whimper.
The Blu-Ray has only one special feature, audio commentary featuring director Ami Canaan Mann and writer Donald F. Ferrarone

About the Author:

Angelica Jade Bastien is a freelance writer specializing in screenwriting and feminist pop culture criticism. When not writing she can be found reading comics or discussing why Elizabeth Taylor is her cinematic spirit sister. She lives in Chicago with her lovely cat, Professor Butch Cassidy. You can follow her on Twitter @viperslut.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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