Michael Mann’s daughter Canaan Mann directs her second feature film after her debut in 2001 ‘Morning’ with Texas Killing Fields, a crime film that premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival today, based on the gruesome true events of the murder of a woman who was dumped in an old oil field that happened outside the city of Houston, in Texas. It is based on the novel of the same name but Mann has previously said in interviews that she got hooked on the tragedy when she saw a newspaper a map of the real killing of this poor woman, leaving her compelled to tell this story.
The film follows Texas City homicide detectives Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) while they are trying to solve one of their cases (Maan has previously claimed that there’s still 27 cold cases in Texas) and outside their jurisdiction there is what the locals call the Killing Fields, a muddy area where many bodies of missing women are regularly found. Detective Pam, played by Jessica Chastain present at this years festival also in Al Pacino’s film in the role of Salome, is in charge of the murder investigation and she asks for Brian’s help. Things are made more complicated because Brian and Mike are trying to protect little Anne Sliger (Chloe Moretz), a sweet little blonde angel who’s mother “entertain men” in the house therefore forcing the kid to always be on her own in the streets.
Mann’s direction is fluid and intriguing from the get-go, she almost makes us feel as if we are flying inside a dream, or a nightmare as later we find out. Worthington and Morgan both lead the impressive cast with great ease and passion and it’s a film that perfectly belongs in the cop genre, two cops chasing a serial killer, but Canaan Mann adds something more to it. We see the drama from the detectives’s perspective but also from the victims. We are the victims of this crimes, we are the families of the dead women.
Mann also makes a good use of violence, not too much, only when is needed, without showing or revealing anything that would be crude. It’s a highly entertaining film for the lovers of the genre but also for those who like a good story and good filmmaking. Any more said about the plot of the movie would be doing Mann an injustice.
It’s interesting to note that this is the second film at the Festival which is set in Texas but shot in Lousiana but the landscape that was used perfectly matches the story. As Mann puts it, it is a nowhere middleness that is really terrifying. It shows America’s contradiction, violence but also compassion, success but also failure, love and hate, all living in the same place. Michael Mann produced the film but he clearly let his daughter work on her own as his touch cannot be felt in the film, and that is very good as she has good possibilities of becoming a great director.
The Texas Killing Fields opens in the U.S. on October 14th.