Texas Killing Fields (Blu-ray)
Perhaps it’s because we have so many crime shows on television, but I feel a lack of great homicide stories in film today. Therefore, I was fairly curious about a serial killer mystery starring a handful of great up and coming actors who have been popping up everywhere – Sam Worthington (AVATAR, CLASH OF THE TITANS), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (WATCHMAN, Denny from Grey’s Anatomy), Jessica Chastain (THE HELP, THE TREE OF LIFE and just about every other movie that came out in 2011) and Chloë Grace Moretz (KICK-ASS, HUGO). While not necessarily groundbreaking, TEXAS KILLING FIELDS is surprisingly smart and entertaining.
Two homicide detectives are tracking down a serial killer who kidnaps and mutilates women, dumping their bodies in a large marshy area nicknamed, The Killing Fields. Souder (Worthington) is a younger more renegade “bad cop” while Heigh (Morgan) is a New York transfer that has a kind personable “good cop” approach. Factoring in his faith and prayer into his work, Heigh sometimes goes outside the legal box himself, while Souder might be tougher he is always out to do the right thing but with less patience for criminals. Both characters give some nice grey areas and fight off that stereotype of bad and good. Both are good but with very different outlooks and tactics. Believability in character development is key to any film but especially in ones where the audience must rely on the leads to carry them through the story.
Because the marshland is so big, some bodies end up inside another jurisdiction. With the help of a third cop, Pam Stall (Chastain) from a neighboring town, who is also the ex-wife to Sounder providing some extra tension, they hope they can find some answers to these mysteries. The filmmakers wisely don’t overuse the Sounder/Stall relationship nor do they exploit the sex card. TEXAS KILLING FIELDS provides a wide variety of supporting characters as a large pool of suspects to heighten the mystery. Nearly everyone we meet has elements of lowlife trash to them that both shows the world they live in and provides the audience another option to guess at. One of the unfortunate victims of a bad home life is a young girl named Ann Sigler (Moretz). Her mother allows many terrible men in her life that continues to put little Ann in danger. Heigh has taken a special interest in preserving the young girls innocence who represents one character for the audience to care about and worth saving from these horrific murders.
Daughter of Michael Mann (HEAT, THE INSIDER, COLLATERAL), director Ami Canaan Mann does a nice job framing the action. Sticking close to her actors, she also has the good mind to capture the atmosphere of small town Texas. You can see definite signs of her father’s influence but I think she has the technical chops to grow into her own. Even the source material has her father’s name written all over it, but that isn’t a bad thing, since nearly all his films are high quality entertainment.
Inspired by true events, TEXAS KILLING FIELDS is an interesting story. The film isn’t overly suspenseful, exciting or even very memorable but it does entertain and the actors do a fine job with some well-crafted characters. The film had potential to be more riveting but as a relatively unknown film with little expectation, I found it to be a pleasant return to a missing genre.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) The picture looks great but the few dark moments are nearly too dark to fully understand what’s happening.
Audio: (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) Excellent audio with a decent soundtrack.
Audio Commentary Featuring Director Ami Canaan Mann and Writer Donald F. Ferrarone: The writer gives some interesting first hand experience from when he followed the real officers in which the screenplay and film is based on. They take the commentary seriously and give their thoughts and reasons behind every moment and character.