There are some films that you wonder why they didn’t come out into theatres en masse. Texas Killing Fields is one of them based purely on its pedigree; produced by Michael Mann and directed by his daughter Ami, you’d expect a film based off a novel and inspired by a true story to have garnered more than a limited release and a quick release onto DVD. It’s a shame because it’s one of the more inspired crime films of the past couple years.
The film follows two detectives (Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as they track a serial killer dumping his victims’ corpses in the fields off I-45 outside of League City, Texas. This is an old fashioned procedural as Souder (Worthington) and Heigh (Morgan) try to break the case by a thorough investigation. And it deserves much better than going quickly to DVD because it was good enough to be in theatres.
It starts with Worthington and Morgan. They aren’t the typical mismatched cops you normally find in the genre. They work well together but Heigh is obviously the veteran hand. He’s cool and calm, having seen way more than Souder has in his career. Souder loses his calm enough that Heigh knows how to handle him; Morgan and Worthington have an easy chemistry together in this regard. These are two partners that have been together for long enough to know each other’s quirks but not long enough to be a pair of old, grizzled cops. Souder is not green but he’s not quite the veteran hand his partner is. Heigh knows this but doesn’t have a problem with it. As they investigate the case their relationship becomes fascinating to view; these are two similar men at two different points on the same timeline of being a good police officer.
The film itself is a fairly perfunctory procedural but Mann has a similar style to her father. The way she tells a story is really similar and you can see elements from Mann’s canon of film scattered throughout this one. Her father also produced the film, so his touch is expected, but she has enough of a variant on the way he tells a story that it feels like her own. She uses a much different editing style, preferring quicker cuts to disperse longer scenes. The younger Mann uses a similar style to her father in setting up scenes but cuts it up and uses different shots of the same scene much more. There aren’t any long shots or extended takes, giving it a different feel despite a similar story-telling style. It’s still the same Michael Mann style film, using plot points to show us character as opposed to specific character establishing moments, but it’s presented differently and thus feels fresh and original.
Texas Killing Fields deserves better than what it has; hopefully audiences can find and enjoy it on DVD. It’s a terrific police procedural.
There’s an Audio Commentary with Ami Canaan Mann and Donald F Ferrarone as well as the film’s Theatrical Trailer.
There isn’t much to the DVD besides some slight extras but the film is good enough to warrant a rental at a minimum.
Anchor Bay presents Texas Killing Fields. Directed by Ami Canaan Mann. Written by Donald F Ferrarone based off the novel “The Texas Killing Fields.” Starring Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloe Moretz Running time: 105 minutes Rated R. Released on DVD: January 31, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.