I can’t think of one good reason to justify the existence of Texas Killing Fields. I can think of a bad one though – the director’s dad happens to be Michael Mann, writer-director of such films as Heat, The Insider, and Ali. I wouldn’t cry nepotism based on that alone, but the fact that the elder Mann produced Texas Killing Fields – easily the worst entry in his filmography – makes it difficult to ignore the connection.
The film was inspired by true events, namely a series of unsolved killings that occurred in League City, Texas in the mid-‘80s. That’s nearly irrelevant though, as this confusing and poorly told story appears to be an extremely loose adaptation of the real case. The story follows a pair of rather incompetent cops as they stumble around a creepy Texas town. They’re clearly out of their league as they try to catch the murderer who has been targeting teenage girls.
Red herrings are thrown around right and left; after all every adult male in this town comes across as a leering sex offender. Why the FBI isn’t involved in this wide-ranging series of murders is unclear. This police department, which at times seems to consist of only two men, discovers at one point that they might be after two killers instead of one. Later, their logic-defying decisions indicate that they have forgotten this vital bit of info, preferring one-man stakeouts rather than ever calling in back-up.
Far more compelling storytelling can be found in even the laziest episodes of Law and Order or CSI. The filmmakers behind Texas Killing Fields should count their lucky stars that they roped in some names that might pique a weary movie renter’s interest. Sam Worthington (star of Avatar, Terminator Salvation, and Man on a Ledge) wrestles with an accent of indeterminate origin as Detective Mike Sounder. His ex-wife is a ball busting cop in another precinct, portrayed by Jessica Chastain (a current Oscar nominee for The Help). Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In, Hugo) plays Little Ann Slinger, a young girl in perpetual danger of abduction. Texas Killing Fields is a stain on each of these actors’ filmographies.
Texas Killing Fields looks alright in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray. Framed at 2.40:1, the transfer is clean and free of visual artifacts. It’s a dark movie but, for the most part, detail is not lost during the nighttime scenes. Actually the best aspect of the film is the cinematography, so it’s a big plus that the picture is sharp and the colors are rich. As for audio, the Blu-ray boasts a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix that also sounds fine. Despite a few action-oriented scenes, the film is relatively low key from an audio perspective. My complaint is that the dialogue is frequently hard to understand, but I’m not sure that’s a technical fault of the Blu-ray. There’s a lot of guttural mumbling in the movie, which comes through loudly from the center channel. The atmospheric score is crisp, though at times a little overpowering. Surround channels are subtly active with ambient noise, while the LFE channel is a little light.
Don’t expect to find much in the way of supplemental features. Buried in the set up menu is an audio commentary with director Ami Mann and the screenwriter Donald F. Ferrarone. If I had written this piece of crap, I would’ve done the commentary as Alan Smithee and demanded that my voice be disguised.