Why do a CSI movie when there’s so
much of that already on television? Well,
maybe because you have a more complex story that takes longer to develop, and
maybe because you can sustain a gritty mood with more subtle artistry.
Director Ami Canaan Mann is not at all
uncomfortable with supplying the viewer only with quick-cut images at first,
calling on the viewer’s participation in fashioning the story line.
But even by the end, she’s not aiming for clarity so much as
Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a
New York City
police detective who is in the swamps of the
coastlands trying to help solve a serial murderer crime spree.
His local liaison is Mike Souder (Sam Worthington), who seems to have a
parochial kind of superstitious fear about the unnavigable wasteland outside
. But it turns out he is still haunted
by childhood memories and associations, and his demons are evident in his
divorce from the other local detective (Jessica Chastain) and his weekends
spent binge drinking. Heigh, for his
part, has a hair-trigger temper in dealing with obstructionist yokels, and
when the killer sends him taunting messages with random clues, he begins to
really take this personally. In the
course of his bull-in-a-china-shop style of investigation, he unearths a local
prostitution ring, long ignored by local law enforcement, with a side dish of
a stolen auto “chop shop.” Heigh
also develops a soft spot for one particular teenager wandering the streets,
Anne (Chloe Grace Moretz), whose Mother (Sheryl Lee) routinely runs her out of
the house so she can “entertain.” Lots
of pathos all around.
But the grim, desperate pursuit begins
in earnest when Anne herself is kidnapped, and the two partners can’t agree
on a strategy to search for her, though both are frantic, and both are ‘way
too emotionally involved to be objective about anything.
The implied voodoo of the swampland is
an added dimension to the suspense, but this movie is menacing even during the
silences. There’s no love here,
nobody is happy, everyone is desperate about something, and there is no humor
or romance anywhere in sight. It’s
just a grim march to the finish, which surprisingly resembles an Old West
gunfight, where the winner is not necessarily the one who’s in the right,
but only the last man left standing. Whether
or not he flinched first.
Harrowing. “Texas Killing
Fields” is sinister and dark and brooding, which will make it compelling
only to the CSI junkie who wants to see it all ratcheted up a notch.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St.Stephens Presbyterian Church,