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Friday, October 14, 2011

Texas Killing Fields

Too often women directors get boxed into the sappy and cliched romantic comedy circuit. But quite a few go unnoticed and unnamed when they helm projects like when Mary Harron did American Psycho in 2000 or Patty Jenkins did Monster in 2003. Director Ami Canaan has joined the ranks with her disturbing new thriller, Texas Killing Fields.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Sam Worthington play Texas detectives Brian Heigh and Mike Souder, who are on the hunt for serial killers who dumps his mutilated victims in an abandoned marsh. Mike (Worthington) is the natural-born Texan with a hothead spirit, and Brian is a New York transplant trying to make the world a better place--one solved murder at a time. When someone they know--a young girl named Anne (Chloë Moretz)--ends up on the culprit's hit list, Brian especially makes it his mission to stop him before she ends up another victim. Meanwhile, as the two sleuths are hot on the killers' trail, they become the killers' nemesis. They must find a way to end the killers' reign over the forgotten part of the state, before he ends them.

Texas Killing Fields, which is inspired by actual events, is a captivating thriller elevated by great performances. Worthington, in perhaps his best performance, is almost as frightening as the premise itself, yet you can't take your eyes off him. His line delivery drips with reckless malice by a man who's clearly not afraid of most people, much less the douchebag who's threatened his hometown. Morgan, who's sometimes lost in Worthington's shadow, holds his own as a man suffering from his own flawed sense of heroism. Together the two are like night and day.

Then there's Moretz, who is really proving to be a fine actress with every role she takes on. Little Anne is a small town girl from a twisted family (mom is played by the underrated Sheryl Lee), who seems to be doomed from the start. But, even though she's a girl of few words, the audience realizes there may be more to her than she's willing to share. Canaan allows us to fear for her as well as with her as she walks the lonely highway, as one suspicious car rolls by, at dusk. Jessica Chastain also shines as a tough cop and Mike's jilted ex.

The movie is rabid but delicate at the same time. It keeps your attention until right before the end, after a perfectly directly scene between Worthington and the killers at their home. Since there are two sets of characters we're introduced to in the film--the killers and another set of cagey characters from the wrong side of the law--we're left questioning whether there will be justice brought to those other guys. But perhaps the open-endedness of their crimes make for a more haunted take on the Texas town. Either way, Texas Killing Fields is a must-see.

Rating: A-

If you haven't see the trailer, catch it here:

The movie, which also stars Jason Clarke and James Hébert, hits theaters today.


Elisabeth said...

Wow. I have seen this movie panned big time, but I know you are somewhat picky and since I trust your judgment I will not be skipping this movie after all. Thanks.

F.FRANKLIN said...

cant wait to watch it!!!!

JordanDorkin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yorgi said...

"...Texas detectives Brian Heigh and Mike Souder, who are on the hunt for serial killers who dumps his mutilated victims in an abandoned marsh." But no, actually they play two Texas City detectives who are on the hunt for a killer of a 14-year old prostitute whose body was dumped in the city. Heigh is distracted from the case by the ex-wife of Souder, a detective from another jurisdiction who's on the hunt for said serial killer--he is more interested in her case than his own. Heigh has also developed an unexplained friendship with a young girl, the Moretz character. Heigh, not Worthington, is the main character. He supposedly brings the three main plotlines together--they become two, one of which gets wrapped up extremely neatly and conveniently while the other is left wide open, leaving the viewer to feel that half of the movie was a pointless investment of time once it has ended. This movie had great potential, had it maximized the performance of Stephen Graham as a villain and tapped into its setting in a True Detective-like fashion. Instead, it focused too much on that second, pointless plotline, so that the best you can say about it is that it was decent and included some similarities to some things that you've seen and liked better.

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