Texas Killing Fields

3 out of 5 stars
Texas Killing Fields

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Watch your backs, pardners...there's some murderous mischief going on in the Lone Star State. In Ami Canaan (offspring of Michael) Mann's effective, if generic, thriller, brooding detectives Mike Souder (Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Morgan) risk life, limb and sanity to catch a serial killer. The desolate fields outside Texas City are the murderer's base of operation; the victims are all young women, which doesn't bode well for Anne (Moretz), the troubled preteen Heigh has taken under his wing. And it's not like Souder has it any easier, since his firebrand ex-wife, Pam (Chastain, finally making movies again after a weeklong sabbatical), is the cop in charge of the investigation.

The identity of the villain is beside the point; he-she-it might as well have a Looney Tunes--ish neon arrow emblazoned KILLER! pointing at their noggin. What matters more is the thick sense of atmosphere that Mann and her collaborators conjure. Brows sweat profusely (the humidity practically seeps offscreen), Dickon Hinchliffe's droning score is Tangerine Dream-y, and there are several standout sequences, as when a freak rainstorm threatens to wash away some crucial evidence, that show real directorial chops. When it comes to scenes in which characters are asked to say more than two words, however, the filmmaker's a decided amateur; Moretz, in particular, seems hopelessly stranded as the attitudinal wild child. Like father, like daughter: Mann's characters are best when they're brusque.

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

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