Libby Day was only eight years old when her family was brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Almost thirty years later, she reluctantly agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night.
Souder, a homicide detective in a small Texan town, and his partner, transplanted New York City cop Detective Heigh, track a sadistic serial killer dumping his victims' mutilated bodies in a nearby marsh locals call 'The Killing Fields'. Though the swampland crime scenes are outside their jurisdiction, Detective Heigh is unable to turn his back on solving the gruesome murders. Despite his partner's warnings, he sets out to investigate the crimes. Before long, the killer changes the game and begins hunting the detectives, teasing them with possible clues at the crime scenes while always remaining one step ahead. When familiar local girl Ann goes missing, the detectives find themselves racing against time to catch the killer and save the young girl's life.
Tries so hard to make the audience not care about any of the characters...
Originally scheduled for the director Danny Boyle in 2008, but when the British-born filmmaker abandoned the project a year later, based on the murders of young women in a Texan oil field known to the locals as the 'Killing Field,' Ami Canaan Mann, the daughter of the acclaimed director Michael, took over the directorial helm of the Sam Worthington vehicle the 'Texas Killing Fields'. Mann's feature-film debut is a flat, slow police procedural drama that fails to utilize the acting talent at hand and instead relies entirely upon a stale script. 'Texas Killing Fields' would make for a barely competent television drama, but as a theatrical release, it falls incredibly short of being engaging entertainment for the big-screen.
Detective Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) is a local Texan police officer who believes extensively in only working on cases in his own town's jurisdiction, while his partner Detective Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a former New York City police officer who can't but help others in their time of need. Whether it is a young girl named Anne (Chloe Moretz) who resides with an abusive family, or Det. Souder's former wife Detective Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain), who polices a nearby community in which a Texan oil field known as the killing fields is situated. When Pam requests the help of Heigh in the recent disappearance and murder of women within the confines of the killing fields, he reluctantly obliges, despite the objections of his partner due to their own case against two low-life pimps who are systematically kidnapping and forcing teenage girls into a life of prostitution. What follows, is two differing journeys as both men attempt to bring the guilty to justice through their own, loose methods.
Sam Worthington's Detective Souder is a brash, uncompromising individual who rarely comforts, but always intimidates, even when he is simply taking a statement from a young, teenage victim. It is briefly suggested that this distance and animosity originates from a rough upbringing, but it is never explored in any suitable detail, and Souder instantly comes across as an unlikeable character that is unable to redeem the glaring flaws in his personality by the conclusion of the picture. The same can also be said for Jeffrey Dean Morgan's performance as a likable and hard-working detective, despite a good performance from Morgan, he is entirely clichéd in his traits and comes across as a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out. The only encouraging performance of the piece comes from the surprisingly mature Chloe Moretz, who at only fourteen years of age has already established herself as young, up and coming actress.
Aside from the acting and the lack of characterisation, the other glaring flaw of 'Texas Killing Fields' is the complex narrative at the heart of the picture, while Souder is investigating Rule (Jason Clarke) and Levon (Jon Eyez) over the kidnapping and forced prostitution of runaway teenage girls, Heigh is helping Detective Stall investigate the killing fields, and the story of a neglected teenager in Little Anne is also thrown in their for good measure. With so many different narrative streams taking place all at once it is easy to become confused about what is exactly taking place on-screen, who is being interviewed and what criminal case they are actually discussing or investigating. On more than one occasion the editing compliments this confusion by cutting needlessly to a scene or character unrelated to the previous sequence without any standing or context. This constant juxtaposition between cases also ceases any emotional connection to any of the characters or their plights.
Ami Mann had the potential, the actors and the setting to create a film which would transcend the typical crime-thriller picture and instead impose another strong character piece with an engaging narrative upon this cinematic year, however instead she has come away with an almost amateur looking motion picture which does nothing to compliment the genre. While the Louisianan outback masquerades beautifully for the desolate Texan fields, the rest of the film is quite horrible to observe, it is a boring, slow, predictable, one-dimensional crime-thriller that should have never been commissioned for theatrical distribution.
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