x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Texas Killing Fields

In Texas Killing Fields, the director doesn't bother with back-story and instead dumps the audience into middle of a murder investigation, expecting us to piece the jigsaw puzzle storyline together as the action moves along.

Sam Worthington, left, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Texas Killing Fields. Courtesy Anchor Bay
Sam Worthington, left, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Texas Killing Fields. Courtesy Anchor Bay

Texas Killing Fields

Director: Ami Canaan Mann

Starring: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain

**

The Texas “killing fields” is a stretch of swampy land in Texas where more than 40 female dead bodies have been recovered since the 1970s. This macabre truth is the basis of this screenplay by Don Ferrarone, a former DEA agent who feeds crime stories to Hollywood.

Ferrarone worked on 1995’s Heat. The director Ami Canaan Mann is the daughter of Michael Mann (who has a producer credit on the film) and she shares her father’s obsession with close-ups, fast cuts and police procedural dramas. Sadly, she also shares his penchant for muddled narratives and for large sections, Texas Killing Fields is incongruous and baffling. The director doesn’t bother with backstory and instead dumps the audience into the middle of a murder investigation, expecting us to piece the jigsaw puzzle storyline together as the action moves along. For that to work, the movie needs enthralling central characters; instead the cop pairing of Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is so dull it seems that their chief investigative tactic is to bore their suspects into submission. Souder is obsessed with arresting a pimp and his cohort while Heigh, flown in from New York, wants to nail the serial killer. So much so, he bends the police rule book to work with Pam (Jessica Chastain, surprisingly off-key), an officer from the neighbouring jurisdiction who also happens to be Souder’s ballsy ex-wife. When that delicious detail fails to lift the movie out of the quagmire, the danger signs start to flash.

Mann also suffers from the fault that inflicts many filmmakers shooting in the Texas bayou and its surrounds, in that they believe the lush greenery and humid air is the nod to try to be the “new Terrence Malick”. Here, the camera wistfully weaves through car chases, criminal dens and barren roads. Some would say that the aesthetic has an ethereal quality, others – me included – that it just puts you to sleep.

Interest does get peaked whenever the Kick-Ass star Chloë Grace Moretz is on-screen. She plays Little Anne Sliger, a scamp neglected by her mother who wanders through town looking for something better in life. She’s the only character that isn’t a stereotype and the best moments of the tale revolve around her abduction. But there just isn’t enough of her. Instead, we have Worthington overacting like an avatar unable to control his own gestures.

 

artslife@thenational.ae

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