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ANCHOR BAY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ami Canaan Mann
Cast:
Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloë Grace Moretz, Corie Berkemeyer, Trenton Perez, Maureen Brennan, Tony Bentley
Writing Credits:
Don Ferrarone

Tagline:
No one is safe.

Synopsis:
In the Texas bayous, a local homicide detective teams up with a cop from New York City to investigate a series of unsolved murders.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$8.772 thousand on 3 screens.
Domestic Gross
$45.282 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Spanish Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 1/31/2012

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Ami Canaan Mann and Writer Donald F. Ferrarone
• Trailer and Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Texas Killing Fields [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 30, 2012)

For a dark thriller “inspired by true events”, we head to 2011’s The Texas Killing Fields. Set in Texas City, local detectives Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) investigate the murder of a teen girl found in the streets. They also hear from Detective Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain), Souder’s ex and a cop in a neighboring jurisdiction; she has her own young female murder victim, one who ended up in a domain known as the “killing fields”.

That location has a reputation as some sort of mystical, terrible place that most locals avoid. When the various cases deepen and intertwine, Heigh finds himself drawn to stretch outside his jurisdiction and work with Stall, all against Souder’s wishes. We follow their investigation and the turns it takes as it becomes more obvious there’s a brutal serial killer on the loose – and he’ll turn his sights on the detectives before long.

When a movie claims to be “inspired by true events”, one must wonder how much factual material makes the cut. I did a little poking around to try to find out what real events made the cut but came up short; the most I located was a Wikipedia indication that the film was “loosely based” on actual crimes/situations.

I wonder about the real vs. liberties debate mainly to figure out how much criticism I should aim at the filmmakers. If they create a dull movie that provides an accurate representation of facts, do they deserve a lot of flack? Maybe, but I’d be less willing to criticize an accurate – but lackluster – film than a fictionalized one with the same flaws.

Whatever happened with Fields, in the end it winds up as a fairly forgettable movie that rarely does much to engage the viewer. Much of the problem stems from its loose structure and lack of narrative heft. While I don’t think a “serial killer thriller” like this needs to adhere to genre guidelines, I believe this one would’ve worked better if it’d followed a clearer investigation plot.

Instead, Fields tends to meander. It spends lots of time with characters and/or situations that seem to have little to do with the narrative as a whole, and it doesn’t appear particularly interested in the crimes or their investigation. Often it feels like a Terence Malick take on the genre, as Fields comes with plenty of semi-dreamy visuals and character connections but not a lot of actual storytelling.

Malick gets away with his affectations because he delivers product with such a strong visual and emotional feel that his fans overlook the narrative weaknesses. Fields director Ami Canaan Mann lacks the same ability and leaves us with a movie that just seems aimless much of the time.

It probably doesn’t help that the characters either come across as stale archetypes or – even worse – simply appear forgettable. A good serial killer movie needs a good serial killer, and Fields lacks that. We never get much of a sense of threat or menace, as the absence of compelling villains makes the results bland and forgettable.

Maybe that’s the point – maybe the filmmakers wanted to remind us that crimes are committed by real people and not cinematic monsters like Hannibal Lecter. And that’s fine, but I wish the result had been more interesting. Serial killer movies don’t need to be cartoony to be captivating and involving. Fields winds up as a dull take on the crime thriller.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Texas Killing Fields appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The shows consistently looked good but not great.

For the most part, sharpness appeared positive. Some softness affected occasional wide shots, but the majority seemed reasonably distinctive and concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and I witnessed no edge haloes. As expected, no source flaws popped up during the clean presentation.

Fields opted for a subdued palette. Occasional instances of bright hues popped up, but the series usually preferred a somewhat sepia feel. Within those constraints, the colors appeared clear and full. Blacks were fairly deep, and shadows usually satisfied; a few shots were a bit dense, but most appeared positive. All of this added up to a solid “B” image.

Similar thoughts greeted the more than acceptable Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio of Fields. Overall, the soundscape didn’t come across as consistently involving. Still, it threw out more than a few sequences with a good sense of place and environment. These include storms and the occasional elements of violence. While these didn’t dazzle, they used the five speakers well and added a nice sense of the action.

Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues; I occasionally found it a little tough to understand some lines, however. Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, while music was rich and clear. Nothing here created a great soundtrack, but like the visuals, the audio deserved a “B”.

Only one significant extra shows up here: an audio commentary with director Ami Canaan Mann and writer Donald F. Ferrarone. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cinematography, sets and locations, cast and performances, story/script/character topics, research and facts behind the movie's fiction, the score, and a few other areas.

Overall, this becomes a decent chat. It tends to sag at times – and it definitely starts slowly – but it still delivers a reasonable examination of the film. It takes the flick quite seriously and provides a more narrative-based take than usual; we get introspection about the story and events more than a “nuts and bolts” view. That’s fine, as the discussion delivers an intriguing piece.

The disc opens with ads for Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Divide, The Son of No One, Battle Royale and Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. We also get a trailer for Fields.

It seems tough to make a dull serial killer film, but that’s what we get with The Texas Killing Fields. Too scattered and slow to make a dent, the film fails to explore any potential it might boast. The Blu-ray comes with fairly good picture and audio as well as a reasonably engaging audio commentary. I can’t find much to recommend with this lackluster thriller.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.2702 Stars Number of Votes: 37
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