Texas Killing Fields | Film review
TV-trained Ami Canaan Mann delivers a more clichéd cops-and-killers flick than her famous father would have made.
Texas Killing Fields was directed by the daughter of Michael Mann, but let’s not make too much of that. Beyond an affinity for the crisscrossing fates of cops and crooks, as well as a certain noirish interest in nocturnal city rhythms, there’s little in this torn-from-the-case-files policier that suggests a common lineage with the maker of Manhunter. There’s more Law & Order than Miami Vice in this TV-trained filmmaker’s bloodstream.
Inspired by real events, the film concerns a rash of serial murders in urban Texas. Sporting a shaky regional dialect, Sam Worthington plays the investigating officer, who drinks too much and talks to his dog. His partner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an NYC transplant with a troubled past, wants to go rooting around in the probable crime scene—the eponymous, mysterious marshlands—but it’s out of their jurisdiction.
On the one hand, the true-crime pedigree dictates that Mann and screenwriter Don F. Ferrarone stick closely to what actually transpired, even when said events don’t best suit their dramatic interests. On the other hand, the film is so pockmarked with cliché, so in love with the moth-eaten characterizations of cop movies, that it’s hard to take seriously as a procedural. At least Mann manages to slip in a few striking sequences—a terrifying home invasion, a fevered car chase—and invest the margins of the film with local color. Maybe the apple didn’t fall so far from the tree after all.