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Texas Killing Fields

Director: Ami Canaan Mann
Cast: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

(US theatrical: 31 Jan 2012)

Texas Killing Fields takes inspiration from actual murders in Texas. Dozens of corpses have been found in a particularly desolate stretch of land along I-45 in the Lone Star State, and because the killings have taken place across more than 40 years, investigators believe that the murders are the work of more than one killer.


This film, directed by Ami Canaan Mann and written by Donald Ferrarone, follows two detectives, Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), as they attempt to find whoever has been committing murders at the edge of their town. There’s some business about how the fields in question are outside the jurisdiction of these two officers and about how they shouldn’t get involved in killings out there, but that never becomes a real sticking point and, like so much else in this movie, you quickly give up trying to figure out why that’s important or even if it’s important. (There’s even some laughable business about members of a long-ago Indian tribe who turned to cannibalism when caught out in the fields. Weak!)


We aren’t forced to watch a whole series of murders unfold, many of them coming just as the detectives swear they have the right guy. We also don’t have to sit through the usual round of taunts, false leads, gruesome crimes scenes, etc. and so forth. But there comes a time, maybe 20 minutes into this flick, when you begin to beg for something that feels like either plot or action—or perhaps even a commercial break.


Too many of the early scenes are chewed up by exposition and exposition through dialogue, and the pacing is torpid, at best. By the half hour mark you’re already checking your watch, hoping that your allergy medication is responsible for making time stretch out like it has. And, of course, you have to listen to the leaden dialogue that is as predictable as Sunday circulars. We’re deprived of any real involvement in the plot and if there’s any sense of theme, this writer sure didn’t catch it.


There are other problems. Souder may be one of the most despicable characters you’ve seen in a serial killer flick––and he’s supposed to be one of the good guys! Instead, he’s a Neanderthal with a gun and a badge, portrayed by an actor who goes straight for mean and sullen and stays there throughout. The lines are often mumbled, suffocated by the tough guy exterior. No matter, you probably didn’t want to hear what he had to say, anyway.


Heigh, on the other hand, is the good Catholic cop with a heart of gold and a loving family. (Gran even lives with them!) He has respect for human life, but apparently, he doesn’t have much in the way of brains––a moment late in the film that should have been climactic just comes off as stupid as Heigh busies himself with dreadfully mundane dialogue and an inattentiveness one might more commonly expect from Ho-Hos and Twinkies.


The rest of the characters don’t matter much, either. Sure, there’s a tween girl named Anne (Chloë Grace Moretz) whom we’re supposed to sympathize with because she’s had a hard knock life but she, like so many of the characters here, might as well be wallpaper or gum stuck to the seat in front of you for the rapport we develop with her. Maybe the most memorable thing about her is that she’s always buying Milk of Magnesia (Why? Why?) and then it occurs to you: It’s probably best that you had some Milk of Magnesia on hand, while watching this.


The DVD features the film trailer and audio commentary (Why? Why?) from Mann and Ferrarone.

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Jedd Beaudoin is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He holds an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Wichita State University and hosts Strange Currency six nights week for Wichita Public Radio. His writing has appeared in No Depression and The Crab Orchard Review as well as at websites such as Ytsejam.com and Amazon.com.


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