Friday, September 9, 2011

Texas Killing Fields - A Family Affair

Ami Canaan Mann & Michael Mann
(Venice, Italy) Texas Killing Fields is a real place, populated by the ghosts of dead girls and women. Almost sixty bodies of sexual assault victims have been dumped there over the years, all victims of different killers. Many of the murders are unsolved because no one knows where the women were actually killed. If you want to get away with rape and murder, dump the body in the Texas Killing Fields among the skeleton trees.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Brian
According to screenwriter Don Ferrarone, a retired DEA agent, the Indians who used to inhabit the land were the only cannibal tribe in North America. Years ago, Ferrarone was on assignment in Texas City, Texas when he heard the story and became intrigued. He met two Texas City PD Detectives, Brian Goetschius and Mike Land and based the characters in the film on them.

Ami Canaan Mann is Michael Mann's daughter, and Texas Killing Fields looks and feels like the Michael Mann production it is. Michael Mann literally put a very nice roof over my head; he gave my second husband a break and launched his directing career. After the press conference, I thanked Michael for it.

Sam Worthington as Mike
So for me, Texas Killing Fields felt a bit like home. Bonnie Timmerman is still the casting director. Ami Canaan Mann said her first involvement in her father's work was on his TV show Crime Story. That's when I came into the story, too, back when Las Vegas was vintage glitz, before the new hotels.

Ami Canaan Mann said she wanted the movie to have the feel of a haunted house, and she succeeded. We want to know what's in there, but we don't know if we want to go inside. In the film, many people who populate Texas City, a refinery town, are "throw-aways," the dregs of American society.

Something that is not in the movie: Texas City was already famous for being the site of the worst industrial accident in US history when fertilizer stored at the docks exploded in 1947, killing 500 people and injuring over 5000. The Texas Killing Fields run along I-45, just outside the Texas City limits. From Wikipedia:

The Texas City economy has long been based on heavy industry, particularly shipping at the Port of Texas City as well as petroleum and petrochemical refining.[5] The Texas City Industrial Complex is a leading center of the petrochemical industry. Within this complex the Texas City Refinery operated by BP is the second largest petroleum refinery in Texas and third largest in the United States

Jessica Chastain as Pam
There are some very scary moments in the movie, and a nifty car chase. It is sinister, intriguing and compelling to watch. Ami Canaan Mann brought a woman's sensibility that I really liked, and was not afraid to get down and dirty with the boys. The casting is terrific; the actors give strong performances -- though, even I as an American, had a difficult time understanding what they said. I often had to read the Italian subtitles..

However, there are too many holes in the story. I wanted more information. The bad guy that is floating free at the end needed to be more neatly resolved. Looking back, I can piece the plot together myself and figure out what happened, but it is not there on the screen. The audience should not leave the theater feeling as equally frustrated as the detectives trying to solve the murders. Or is that the point?

Director's statement:

Chloe Grace Moretz as Anne
On the outskirts of a small town called Texas City, thirty minutes south of Houston, the bodies of just under sixty murder victims have been found. Some women, some girls. Some prostitutes. Some schoolchildren. All victims of different killers. 

In the stacks of preliminary research that came with Don Ferrarone's brilliant screenplay, I found a map attached to a local newspaper article. It showed the faces of the victims near where their bodies were found. ...Arranged as they are on that map, they're a tapestry of beautiful ghosts, their eyes look right through you, asking for voice. And it is this reality, I believe, that pushed myself, cast and crew to try to tell this tough story in the most elegant way possible....

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


  1. I've read somewhere in website that the performance of Sam Worthington as a police officer in Texas Killing Fields is interesting. So i'm excited to Texas Killing Fields

  2. Yes, Singh, it is worth seeing. As I said, there are problems with the structure, but it's got a lot going for it. The car chase is great.