Texas Killing Fields (2011) (15)
Running Time: 105 mins
Directed by: Ami Canaan Mann
Written by: Don Ferrarone
Starring: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain, Chloe Moretz
Reviewed by: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
If you were a promising cook and you bought all the freshest, quality ingredients with the best possible kitchen equipment and utensils for your first attempt to woo the judges in a Masterchef competition then one might think that you would be half way there to success already? But what if you were only half way there and no more? What if all those fantastic skills, ingredients and inspiration produced something bland,boring and forgetable?
Even with the reliable vision of her dad (doing the production duties), Ami Canaan Mann has produced something so painfully average that it might stop me from going to view any of her future work. It does not take an expert to work out why this is such a wasted opportunity.
Australian hottest young property, Sam Worthington plays Detective Mike Souder and Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as the older and wiser partner, Brian Heigh. Mike is the reckless, daring and uncomprimising one and Brian is the kind, level headed and religious one. We learn this during the first five minutes when Brian says a prayer for the battered body of a murdered, young woman and Mike tells a younger cop to shove off. The two agree that this follows the pattern set by a serial killer that has been casting a shadow of terror in the local area. A policewoman in the neighbouring state (Jessica Chastain) and ex wife of Souder, is also searching for missing girl. Soon the trio are pulling all their resources and strengths together to bring these crimes to an end once and for all.
Meanwhile Brian is playing surrogate father to a troubled youngser, Ann Slinger (Chloe Moretz) while taking abuse from her trailer trash mother (an impressively slutty, Sheryl Lee) and team of boyfriends/ clients, led by Rhino (a creepy, Stephen Graham). Ann explains to Brian that a sleazy pimp called Rule (Jason Clarke) has been following her around town. Could this be the detectives’ main target? Does the audience care by this point in the proceedings?
It has been a long time since I have watched a movie that promised so much but delivered so very little. Most of the blame has to be taken by the director. Unlike her father who is the master of storytelling and structure, Ami Canaan Mann seems to sink in the mass of sub plots and characters as if she’s stumbled into one of the swamp fields of the title. Perhaps the only thing that she does portray well in her second full feature are the use of the eerie and sinister swamp fields of the title. Scenes don’t seem to knit or conclude in a satisfactory manner leaving the viewer scratching their head and wondering the logic or point of what’s going on. Mann throws in a Heat inspired car chase and shoot out that does almost reach the heights of excitement and then she cruely ends proceedings prematurely. She pastes in a suspense filled scene with the killer visiting the home of a single mum and baby. You fear for the two innocents until the director tries to increase the tension with a double scare that strangles all the life out the sequence.
The cast just don’t seem to be able to cut the mustard either. Sam Worthington mumbles through his role with some sort of confused, incomprehensible American accent. He plays the same thug that he did in Clash of the Titans and Terminator Abomination, I mean Salvation. Morgan seems to phone in his role and rub his eyes frequently to show that the pressure of the case is getting to him. Only Jessica Chastain, Chloe Moretz and Sheryl Lee seem to be capable of doing anything with the thin characterisations that they are given. Chastain adds a burst of energy and sexiness when she enters the action a good third of the way through the running time. Her policewoman is far more interesting than her male counterparts. Lee and Moretz tragic mother and daughter relationship is engaging but never fully explored.
But unexplored is a revolving failure regards this project. Characters and plot lines fizzle out towards a painfully dull and tired conclusion. The final twist so obvious that my 5 year old daughter could have worked it out. That is if anyone will stay awake by this time. The distributers could have given a free Texan Bar to those in the audience that could stay awake for the final revelation scene. Dull as swamp water.
[pt-filmtitle]Texas Killing Fields[/pt-filmtitle]