Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | "Texas Killing Fields" Is Directed By Michael Mann's Daughter, and Looks Like It

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire October 13, 2011 at 3:45AM

It might be unfair to read an artist's work on the basis of her lineage, but Ami Canaan Mann is asking for it. Her sophomore effort, "Texas Killing Fields," lives and breathes the hard-crime oxygen of the movies commonly associated with her father, Michael Mann. The younger Mann goes through the motions of a gritty murder mystery with plenty of technical proficiency but only a modicum of soul. The Mann touch is not only in the DNA of the director but in her movie, which inadvertently makes the case that atmosphere is more hereditary than innovation.
0

It might be unfair to read an artist's work on the basis of her lineage, but Ami Canaan Mann is asking for it. Her sophomore effort, "Texas Killing Fields," lives and breathes the hard-crime oxygen of the movies commonly associated with her father, Michael Mann. The younger Mann goes through the motions of a gritty murder mystery with plenty of technical proficiency but only a modicum of soul. The Mann touch is not only in the DNA of the director but in her movie, which inadvertently makes the case that atmosphere is more hereditary than innovation.

Michael Mann's stylishly dark cops-and-robbers dramas, including "Heat" (which his daughter worked on as a teenager) and "Public Enemies," treat the genre with an elegant touch, giving pulp material to a quieter, novelistic feel. In "Texas Killing Fields," Ami Canaan Mann attempts to emulate that tradition with mixed results. Working from Don Ferrarone's screenplay, she ably crafts the feel of backwoods corruption in Texas City, where an ominous murderer has been offing young women and leaving their corpses in the remote network of bayous indicated by the movie's title.

By surveying various disconnected lives in an opening sequence, Mann shows a willingness to push beyond the familiar procedural routine and put the town in closeup. It's a dreary place: In addition to a cookie-cutter pair of officers on the killer's tail, the ensemble includes Chloe Grace Moretz as the adolescent child of a broken home that's constantly under the scrutiny of Officer Brian Heigh (Jefrey Dean Morgan). A solemn and religious man always at odds with his responsibilities, he routinely clashes with his no-nonsense partner, Mike Souder (Sam Worthington). And then there's their measured colleague, Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain, in a tough counterpoint to her many softer roles), who often negotiates between their extreme reactions.

But she can only do so much. From an early interrogation scene, it's clear that Brian and Mike inhabit the good-cop-bad-cop routine not by choice but by nature. However, the derivative characters don't hold down the potential of "Texas Killing Fields." Instead, it suffers from periodic lulls. The sleepy town has secrets to hide, but Mann doesn't generate enough interest to make it worth unraveling them. The washed-out color scheme and handheld camerawork create air quotes around the material, anxiously grabbing for the deeper substance that fails to manifest beneath the routine.

Playing by the rules, "Texas Killing Fields" piles up the clichés. Brian and Mike hone in on the likely suspects at an early stage, then get personal when the killer starts leaving them voicemails. A couple of shoot-outs ensue and the climax polishes off all loose ends. The entire movie plays like a single, prolonged sigh.

There are isolated incidents that generate authentic suspense, particularly a tensely staged break-in, but Mann can't find the distinction among these many familiar motions. The single unique idea is the actual killing fields, which Ferrarone describes in near-supernatural terms to broaden their symbolic value. A no-man's land where death always lurks in every shadow, the fields represent some kind of absolute evil, the nature of which never becomes clear. "They're infected or something," someone says -- by what, we don't know, but the likely culprit is Michael Mann.

criticWIRE grade: C

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Having received mixed reviews after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last month, "Texas Killing Fields" opens this week in several cities through Anchor Bay Entertainment. Despite some decent performances, the lack of A-list stars, mixed reviews and derivative material will likely result in less-than-stellar box office returns.

This article is related to: In Theaters, Texas Killing Fields






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More