Texas Killing Fields is a bit of a disappointment. Director Ami Canaan Mann has some of the visual talents of her father but the story doesn’t quite fit and most of all, the characters are soulless and/or un-relatable. I couldn’t care less what happened to anybody in this film and thus didn’t care for the crimes themselves. This is not a compelling movie in any way which is unfortunately given the talent attached.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Suspense
Anchor Bay | R – 105 min. – $29.99 | January 31, 2012
Directed by: Ami Canaan Mann
Writer(s): Donald F. Ferrarone (written by)
Cast: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastan, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jason Clarke, Annabeth Gish, Sheryl Lee, Stephen Graham
Theatrical Release Date: October 14, 2011
Features: Commentary, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 7.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 23.1 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 2.0/5
Whenever a cover or poster says “Inspired by true events”, my Spidey-sense begin to tingle because often said events are merely a sliver of what actually happened and such is the case in Texas Killing Fields.
The film, originally going to be directed by Danny Boyle, was instead taken over by Ami Canaan Mann, daughter of legendary filmmaker Michael Mann (who also produced), making this her sophomoric theatrical film after a couple of stints on “Friday Night Lights” and “Robbery Homicide Division” and 2001’s Morning. Does Ms. Mann even have an ounce of talent like her father? Based on TKF, I’d say no, but with some work she certainly has the opportunity.
The story centers around small town Texas detectives Mike Souder (SAM WORTHINGTON) and Brian Heigh (JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN) who, when the movie begins, are called onto the scene of a young female found dead beside a convenience store. Within the first minute we immediately learn Heigh is a meticulous and spiritual man with a sense for when it’s going to rain while Souder is more by the book and seemingly tolerates Heigh’s religious manor (Souder also apparently doesn’t have a built-in barometer to predict when it’ll rain).
On the way back from the crime scene, we encounter a young girl named Ann Sliger. Ann’s home life is in shams: her mother (SHERYL LEE) is a whore and her brother (JAMES HEBERT) is a mamma’s boy. There’s also a quirky fellow named Rhino (STEPHEN GRAHAM) who hangs around the place and takes a special interest in little Ann. Heigh, though, looks after Ann while Souder raises the ire out of Rhino.
Meanwhile, in the town over, Detective Pam Stall (JESSICA CHASTAIN) has a murder case of her own and wants Heigh’s help, but Souder won’t allow it as Heigh gets too wrapped up in these cases and often even gets lost in his determination. Oh, and to add an extra wrinkle: Stall and Souder used to be married, so the relationship is already filled with tension.
Soon enough, however, both men become entrenched in the investigation especially after another woman is attacked in her own him (she manages to stave him off) only for another woman the same night to get kidnapped with the person(s) calling the detectives in their office with a recording of the attack.
Could Rhino be behind it? Or is it another individual, a personal called “Rule” (JASON CLARKE), a tatted up individual who hangs out with an insidious crowd, including pimp Levon (JON EYEZ), and has an affinity for young girls. It’s a cat and mouse game, at a very slow and uninteresting pace, as it is a race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late.
Alright, so Texas Killing Fields had an interesting premise and actually began well enough with effectively dark ambience. However, as the movie pushed on, I had a nagging feeling this wouldn’t end well, not in the sense of the plot but that I’m meeting characters that quite frankly are unlikeable or at best, are cardboard-thin in dimensionality, and yes I am talking about the good guys.
I appreciate movies that aren’t black and white – meaning the good guys have flaws – but when you have one who is downright dull (Worthington) and the other downright depressing (Morgan), it’s really hard to root for either one of them. Then you add in bad guys who are generic and, when it’s revealed who the killer is, obvious, there’s not a whole lot of mystery for the viewer to hang their hat on. So you’re left dark movie with a bunch of dead girls and another live girl living in a crappy house with a neglectful mother. Give me something or someone to care about, please.
With regards to the cast, Sam Worthington is… Sam Worthington. If you’ve seen him in Avatar or even Terminator: Salvation, you’ve seen his emotional range. I like the guy and all, but he’s hardly been impressive in anything I’ve seen him at this point, though I suppose he could find that one script to breakout on. Jeffrey Dean Morgan gets the more dark emotional meat to chew on but sadly, it doesn’t amount to much. Again, his performance isn’t anything special, though he does show more depth. Chloe Grace Moretz in the meantime continues to expand her horizons after the popular Kick-Ass (which I still have not seen) and from the stellar Let Me In. Her role in TKF isn’t particularly strong given the part is fairly small, but she holds her own.
In the end, Texas Killing Fields has some good talent attached but the execution is so poor that no amount of fine acting could overcome the flaws in both the screenwriting and direction, not that Sam Worthington is that outstanding either.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.25/5
Not a whole lot here accept a decent audio commentary by director Ami Canaan Mann and writer Donald F. Ferrarone and the theatrical trailer (2:13; HD).
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Anchor Bay Entertainment releases Texas Killing Fields onto Blu-ray with a good looking 1080p high-def transfer and presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. Now, the movie is dark in tone so even the daylight scenes aren’t especially bright but even so the detail level is decent, color array a tad muted per director’s wishes I’m sure and the black levels, for which there’s much to judge, is excellent showing no signs of artifacting.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
Surprisingly of all releases, this one actually gets a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless track. I’m not sure if a movie like this really benefits from all the channels because it is dialogue heavy intermixed with ambient noises and a haunting score which helps envelopes the other channels.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, Texas Killing Fields is a bit of a disappointment. Director Ami Canaan Mann has some of the visual talents of her father but the story doesn’t quite fit and most of all, the characters are soulless and/or un-relatable. I couldn’t care less what happened to anybody in this film and thus didn’t care for the crimes themselves. This is not a compelling movie in any way which is unfortunately given the talent attached. The Blu-ray offers up good audio and video transfers while the features have much to be desired.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.