Texas Killing Fields is, above all, submerged in a problem of expectations: those surrounding the talent of Michael Mann's daughter Ami Canaan Mann, especially since this moody, richly atmospheric thriller inspired by true-life events is so clearly in the vein of Mann père's work. Therefore, that Ms. Mann acquits herself honourably, if somewhat anonymously, is no bad thing, even if for the time being it's hard to find a trace of personality not directly related to her father.

     What is trickier is clearly that she has been unable to transcend Donald Ferrarone's routine script, following the intertwined investigations of a missing woman and of a murder in Texas by a short-tempered local detective (Sam Worthington) and his devoutly religious transplanted New Yorker partner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). While Ms. Mann does her best to inject some welcome gravitas and successfully injects a sense of place and doom, greatly helped by the classy underplaying of a solid cast, the whole thing seems too much like a pilot episode for an upscale TV procedural, such is the predictability of the script and a score (by Tinderstick Dickon Hinchcliffe) that lays on the ruralisms and thriller clichés a bit too thick.

     Still, that Texas Killing Fields remains consistently engrossing, despite the absence of any distinctive feel, is pretty good these days, and on the strength of this sophomore feature after a little-seen debut it would be foolish to not keep an eye on Ms. Mann.

Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jason Clarke, Annabeth Gish, Sheryl Lee; Stephen Graham.
     Director, Ami Canaan Mann; screenplay, Donald F. Ferrarone; cinematography, Stuart Dryburgh (colour, processing by Technicolor); music, Dickon Hinchcliffe; designer, Aran Reo Mann; costumes, Christopher Lawrence; editor, Cindy Mollo; producers, Michael Mann, Michael Jaffe (Blue Light, Block/Hanson Productions and Watley Entertainment, in association with Infinity Media), USA, 2011, 105 minutes.
     Screened: DVD, Lisbon, April 29th 2012.  



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