Texas Killing Fields

Texas Killing Fields
Director: Ami Canaan Mann
Screenplay: Donald F. Ferrarone
Stars: Sam Worthington (Mike Souder), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Brian Heigh), Jessica Chastain (Det. Pam Stall), Chloë Grace Moretz (Little Anne Sliger), Jason Clarke (Rule), Jon Eyez (Levon), Sheryl Lee (Lucie Sliger), James Hébert (Eugene Sliger), Stephen Graham (Rhino), Corie Berkemeyer (Shauna Kittredge), Tony Bentley (Captain Bender)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2011
Country: U.S.
Texas Killing Fields Blu-Ray
Texas Killing FieldsThe marketing for Texas Killing Fields asserts that it is “inspired by true events,” although a better description would be “set against the backdrop of true events.” It is true that the swamp corridor along Interstate Highway 45 between Houston and Galveston has, for decades, become a dumping ground for murder victims, leading many to theorize that one or more serial killers have been at work in the area. Outside of that, though, the entirety of the screenplay by Donald F. Ferrarone, who is making his writing debut after working as a producer on several Tony Scott films (including Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 123), is purely fictional.

Playing like an extended version of any number of investigatory crime television shows, Texas Killing Fields is built around the investigation of a murder that leads to the revelation of more murders. The main characters are Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a pair of homicide detectives in Texas City, a small town in the Moses Bayou south of Houston and just north of Galveston Island. Like most detective pairings, they are opposites in many ways: While Brian, a transplant from New York City, is the older of the two, he also tends to get more emotionally involved in the cases, whereas Mike, a local boy who knows instinctively what lurks in the dark corners of his hometown, maintains a distanced air that is aided by his general solitude. When they are called in to assist with a murder investigation in a neighboring country whose chief detective (Jessica Chastain) happens to be Mike’s ex-wife, they find themselves drawn deep into what appears to be the work of a serial killer who preys on young prostitutes and other destitute women. This means that Anne Sliger (Chloë Grace Moretz), the teenage daughter of a local prostitute who Brian unofficially looks after, will likely become a future target.

Texas Killing Fields, whose title simultaneously evokes the B-movie mayhem of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and the historical solemnity of Roland Jaffe’s The Killing Fields (1984), was directed by Ami Canaan Mann, daughter of director Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Public Enemies), who serves here as a co-producer. Thankfully, she doesn’t replicate her father’s increasingly distracting aesthetic devices, relying more on a classical sense of dread and intrigue that makes good use of the swampy locations and small-town backrooms to create a slightly dreamlike atmosphere of impending violence (aided by veteran cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh). Unfortunately, she is hampered by a script that wants to do too much with too little. The murder investigation certainly merits intrigue, but it gets weighed down with interpersonal dynamics that carry little emotional or dramatic weight. As a result, the film works sporadically, but never consistently, and ends up feeling much lighter and more forgettable than its “inspired by true events” tagline would seem to merit.

Texas Killing Fields Blu-Ray

Aspect Ratio2.40:1
  • English Dolby Digital TrueHD 7.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish
  • Audio commentary by director Ami Canaan Mann and writer Donald F. Ferrarone
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • DistributorAnchor Bay Entertainment
    Release DateJanuary 31, 2012

    Texas Killing Fields is nothing if not a dark movie visually, with much of it taking place either at night or inside gloomy, dimly lit interiors. The 1080p image is a direct digital port, as the film was shot on the Panavision Genesis HD Camera. The image is sharp and well-detailed, even in the darker scenes, maintaining good contrast and shadow detail to help delineate the darker from the darker. There is a little too much gloominess in some scenes, but I imagine that has more to do with the cinematography than the encoding. The disc boasts a 7.1-channel Dolby Digital TrueHD soundtrack that is duly impressive during the film’s infrequent action scenes. Music is nicely spaced out, as are ambient effects, and the only real complaint is that some of the dialogue is a bit hard to understand from time to time.
    In addition to the original theatrical trailer, the only supplement on the disc is a screen-specific audio commentary by director Ami Canaan Mann and writer Donald F. Ferrarone, who spent a good deal of their time discussing the real life events and people on whom the story is based. It’s definitely an interesting listen—in some ways more interesting than the film itself.

    Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (2)

    James Kendrick

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