Judging by many popular television dramas, murders are solved, and murderers caught, by beautiful people standing around with other, slightly less beautiful people and trading clever quips in pristine offices in some big city. Texas Killing Fields shows what catching murderers probably really looks like.
Texas Killing Fields is a gritty, grim crime drama that sometimes seems to have pieces missing. With a script from Don Ferrarone allegedly based on true events, Ami Canaan Mann directs a taut thriller, filled with shady characters who actually look like they could commit murder. And the locales and settings look about as real as anything seen on screen since Winter's Bone.
The killing fields of the title lie outside Texas City, a place so miserable, as one character puts it, "even God don't come here." The deserted, swampy marshland looks as bleak as any place that could be found in this state, making it a perfect place to dump dead bodies.
When several girls go missing, and later when the bodies of several begin popping up in the fields, detectives Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) follow obscure leads that send them through the area's hellish slums. There, they bravely confront the scary natives.
When the detectives suspect the presence of evidence, they cannot afford the luxury of waiting for a warrant. Instead, they barge in.
Of course in less than two hours, they dodge a few bullets, take some punches, and embark on a mad car chase that takes them not through carefully marked urban streets, but over train tracks and through alleyways and junkyards.
The end goal of catching the responsible killer, or killers, remains clear, but the pursuit often becomes muddled. Who the two detectives - and later a third, Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain) - are chasing and why remain somewhat vague. In fact, even at the end, a major subplot remains unresolved, thereby leaving the viewer to reflect on other untied threads.
But Texas Killing Fields entertainingly combines creepy atmospherics, memorable sleazes, and some high-strung detectives. Taken together, they result in a plausibly authentic look at crime-fighting outside of a glossy television production. MOVIE RATING
Texas Killing Fields
Rated R, 105 minutes.