Monday, March 30, 2015

3 Short Paragraphs: Texas Killing Fields

2011, Ami Canaan Mann (Morning) -- Netflix

I didn't realize I was merging Eric Bana and Sam Worthington together in my head, until I started thinking about this movie and was picturing scenes from Deliver Us From Evil, Bana's latest cop movie, reviewed in this post. If I recall correctly, they are both Australian imports, but both carry that frowny, growly persona that lends itself well to beleaguered cops. In this case, Worthington is the younger frowny cop to Jeffrey Dean Morgan's older, more frowny cop. It would have been interesting if Bana had been in Morgan's role.

Texas Killing Fields takes a very real, very chilling instance of crime from recent American history and tries to build up a dark, muddy, eerie crime drama much in the vein of True Detective. It only somewhat succeeds. It's set against the Calder Field, a moorish tract of land dubbed Killing Fields, in Texas City, Texas. Since the 70s, numerous bodies have been pulled from the field; most of the murders remain unsolved. In reality, the field is not very big but in the myth of movie making, its a massive expanse of swampy, bracken covered land too far from anywhere for anyone to be heard. Its not just a place where people can be taken and murdered without notice, but the murderers can hide and not expect to be found.

Morgan and Worthington are cops in the neighbouring jurisdiction where Jessica Chastain finds the latest body. She wants Morgan's help because he is the seasoned NYC detective, where Worthington is her ex and he is happy to focus on murders in his own county. I liked Chastain here, enjoying her in these smaller roles, where she doesn't do anything extraordinary but is a hard-working, capable actor. Unfortunately, the movie is not much above a mid-level TV series, with the investigation of the murders being sloppy, tainted by emotion and personal attachments, like in all standard crime fiction. Everyone is solidly acting, but there is no range in the story. And that it sums up a daunting case so quickly, and easily, is kind of emasculating to all the police forces involved.