It’s hard to pinpoint who you’re supposed to like in Texas Killing Fields, a movie so ruthless, even the two leads can’t seem to squelch their attitudes between each other. Pimps, drug dealers, hookers, violent mothers, distressed teens, rapists, and CSI crews with egos make this clunker up. Apparently, that’s Texas, at least if you believe what you’re seeing.
Most people won’t, confused by the scattered collection of scenes that rarely feel interconnected without Sam Worthington or Jeffery Dean Morgan. They lock this one down, following a series of murders around an area known as the Killing Fields. When the film moves away from them, it loses focus in a jumble, unable to land on solid footing.
It’s not as if Worthington and Morgan are pristine either, Worthington going in and out of an accent without ever finding a natural one in the first place. Morgan’s few outbursts are the closest Killing Fields comes to eliciting emotion. Postmortem victims carry more personality and charm, morbid thoughts aside.
Methodology is crude, communication break downs make it seem like nothing is actually being accomplished, stakeouts are dry, and the script has to reach into Dumb & Dumber’s laugh bag in an attempt to find some charm. Worthington is forced to recite the mixed breed dog joke in slightly varied form as uttered by Jim Carrey way back in 1994. Worse yet, there’s a need to actually lay it out in case someone didn’t get it, because that’s a great way to kill some time.
That’s what Killing Fields does: kills time. So little of it feels relevant, intriguing, or previously unseen, there’s a wonder why anyone would actually bother. Film is in a bind with regards to crime, TV soaking up the audience and creating a need for something fresh on the screen. The end result here isn’t even above a standard rerun of CSI or Law & Order. There you’ll find a richer mystery, tighter scripting, and crisper pacing. Oh, and despite the cast list, better performances too.
Employing the Panavision Genesis for its HD duties, Killing Fields runs in full bore. Black levels are immediately pleasing, with an intensity, power, and depth only afforded to a handful of digitally sourced productions. A lapse late has more to do with color timing than anything else, drenching the screen in a non-convincing nighttime blue, taking the blacks with it. Otherwise, with only general (and brief) departures, Killing Fields’ black levels survive.
Where it misses wide right is clarity and precision. There’s a constant bother in regards to aliasing, minor things like car doors, rims on glasses, or electrical wires, but it’s a presence that doesn’t disappear. Some part of the frame consistently feels as if it’s destined to lose that battle. Benefits of digital are a bit of a lost cause too, close-ups of any stature reserved to the two leads. No one else seems to matter. Photography is dulled with minor softness, taking these totally NOT Texas locations (it’s Louisiana) out of a pristine presentation.
Much of Killing Fields takes place at night, leading to concerning noise. It further removes this feature from what should be beneficial gloss. Granted, the material is suited to something a little grittier, but this is noise that works in like an infection and distracts. It begins to obscure, not add to image power. Frustration sets in as detail is obscured and artifacts take over, which is irritating in motion as it gives the finest points of definition this unnatural flicker effect.
Saturation is elevated ever so slightly above reality, giving additional warmth to sunsets and a mild vibrancy to the primaries. Flesh tones avoid venturing too astray from their natural state, a slight boost minimal. Fields play host to a number of varied earth tones, giving this supposed death haven a rather beautiful appeal. So much for setting mood.
Something is inherently wrong with this TrueHD effort, namely the harsh, dry dialogue that seeps in from time to time. More common in the first act, it doesn’t disappear, things like on set noise or scratchy clothes picked up by an oversensitive mic. A chat at 23:38 is so obscured by this muffled quality, lines are hard to discern. It’s not a balance or volume thing either. This is a complete and total loss of fidelity.
Anchor Bay situates this one with a 7.1 mix that might as well be the most boring 7.1 affair on the market, at least amongst those with opportunity to show off. A late car chase feels more in line with something out of the early ’80s, if brought to life with better elements. Nothing enters the surrounds or the subwoofer, screeching tires condensed into the center with a minor slip into the stereos. Shotguns are dreadfully plain as rounds are shot, while a car fire doesn’t so much as roar up for a sense of scale.
Even in the fields, where insect calls are considered, there’s no sense of spacing or place. It’s one thing to capture minutiae like crickets chirping, but it’s another to completely ignore the soundfield being presented. What a dud.
There’s a trailer here accessible from the main menu. That’s it.