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Texas Killing Fields (2011)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/31/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/12/2012
It's been a while since we've had a good edition of "I've heard of these people, why haven't I heard of this movie?" Typically when we do this, it refers only to the actors, but this one has familiar names both in front of and behind the camera. The number of up-and-coming actors in this movie can mean only one of two things: it's either another asset to their growing resume, or someone is releasing it now to take advantage of the fact that they are hot. Something tells me that Texas Killing Fields is leaning towards the latter.
Texas Killings Fields takes place in Texas City, Texas. There, police detectives Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) patrol the low income neighborhoods investigating murders and attempting to make sure the locals remain on their side. Brian finds himself watching out for Anne (Chloe Grace Moretz), a girl who lives with an neglectful mother (Sheryl Lee), who is often entertaining gentleman callers. Brian and Mike are knee-deep in the murder of a teenage girl, when they get a cal from Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain), a detective in a neighboring town who also happens to be Mike's ex-wife. She's working on a missing person's case, which turns into a murder investigation, and asks for Brian's help. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that a killer is stalking young women and using a desolate, swamp-like area known as the killing fields as his base of operation. Brian, Mike, and Pam will have to pool their clues in order to stop the killer.
Parts of Texas Killing Fields take place in the titular location, a bleak lifeless area with spotty cell-phone reception. It's clear that someone could get very lost in this area. Perhaps this is all meant to be a reflection of the movie itself. I get the feeling that there's a good film somewhere inside of Texas Killing Fields, but it got lost on its way out. The movie attempts to combine several storylines, but the editing is pretty bad, leaving none of the subplots as the standout. This creates a very disjointed movie which takes the viewer down several paths and then abandons them. This also means that some of the ideas in the movie feel underdeveloped. The biggest issue here concerns two thugs named Rule (Jason Clarke) and Levon (Jon Eyez). Brian visits Levon as part of the initial murder investigation and several interviewees describe Rule as being involved. There is eventually a large manhunt to apprehend the two...which ends in nothing. Given the minute impact that all of this has on Texas Killing Fields, it might as well have been occurring in another movie. This was clearly meant to be a red herring, but it comes off as filler. The movie wants to focus on the disappearances and murders which have taken place in the area, but it's too easily distracted. When the final twist comes, it's not very surprising. Writer Donald F. Ferrarone, who is making his writing debut here, but has worked on several Tony Scott movies, clearly wanted to create a multi-faceted and complex story, but the result is murky at best.
The movie also has no idea what to do with its characters. In the first half, much is made about the fact that Brian is a man of faith...and this goes nowhere. Mike seems to have a short temper and he implies that he had a bad childhood, but we never learn more about this. We know that Mike and Pam were once married, but we don't get any details about this. Pam wants help from Brian because he's good at solving murders. What makes him good at this? Anne is on probation -- for what? Mike's dog is named Lee. What kind of name is that for a dog? The movie throws all of this half-hearted information at us and attempts to pass it off as character development.
Texas Killing Fields comes from Ami Canaan Mann who is making her feature film directorial debut here. The daughter of Michael Mann, one would think that she's scene some police procedurals and action movies before. But, this one comes off as a mess. Looking at her father's work, it's as if she tried to combine the police work seen in Manhunter, some of the action from Heat, and the photography of The Last of the Mohicans. However, she misses the mark so badly on the story that any attempts to create a mood fail. In the end, Texas Killing Fields is the worst of both worlds. It's a police drama which feels derivative of other works, and the fact that it can't tell a cohesive story doom it from the beginning.
Texas Killing Fields will be fairly transparent to fans of Boardwalk Empire on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The movie has an overall dark look, but the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. The colors look good, and the daytime scenes offer very realistic tones. The black tones are realistic as well. The image offers a nice amount of depth, especially the landscape shots, and the level of detail is good. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done and detailed. We get a good sense of things which are happening off-screen thanks to the front channels. The action sequences and the frequent rain provide strong surround sound effects in which we can pick out individual sounds. The gunshots bring the subwoofer into the mix.
The lone (star) extra on the Texas Killing Fields Blu-ray Disc is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long