The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey

SAM Wor­thing­ton’s choices since Avatar have taken the high road for any ac­tor in such a po­si­tion. Af­ter such a huge com­mer­cial suc­cess, the ac­tor has his choice of films. Lesser stars of­ten take the low road and bank the money by choos­ing to per­form in what tend to be a ba­nal, deriva­tive or cyn­i­cal fol­low-ups. Even worse, they may over-reach in tak­ing on char­ac­ters that may be be­yond their skills.

Wor­thing­ton took the high road, choos­ing a num­ber of smaller, var­ied films that each of­fered prom­ise, if not ul­ti­mately de­liv­er­ing. I en­joyed the un­der­rated spy drama The Debt, in which he starred op­po­site Jes­sica Chas­tain, Marton Csokas and He­len Mir­ren; the ro­man­tic drama Last Night less so.

I’m yet to see Man on a Ledge, in cine­mas now, but I’m en­cour­aged Wor­thing­ton is us­ing his heft to get the Aus­tralian film Drift pro­duced in Western Australia. He’s also us­ing his mus­cle to re-en­gi­neer Clash of the Ti­tans with a new di­rec­tor as Wrath of the Ti­tans. That’s the money job.

Texas Killing Fields (M, Road­show, 113 min, $30.99) was a cal­cu­lated punt. It is the sec­ond fea­ture film di­rected by Ami Canaan Mann, who hap­pens to be the daugh­ter of Michael Mann, di­rec­tor of Heat, The In­sider, Col­lat­eral and oth­ers. And the film’s con­stituent parts are en­tic­ing.

The Manns de­vel­oped Don Ferrarone’s screen­play — based on real sto­ries — to­gether, so no sur­prises that we open with two con­trast­ing cops (Wor­thing­ton’s Mike Souder and Jef­frey Dean Mor­gan’s Brian Haigh) driv­ing in a po­lice car. They’re in­ves­ti­gat­ing a mur­der, which soon takes the back seat as their at­ten­tion turns to a miss­ing per­sons case and se­rial killing in an area swamped by it.

Mann is a com­pe­tent di­rec­tor who worked more on at­mos­phere than nar­ra­tive struc­ture. Con­se­quently, this is a film to fall into rather than have you at the edge of your seat. You fall into a grubby world pop­u­lated by well-ren­dered mi­nor char­ac­ters (Chas­tain, Chloe Moretz) and with two de­cent lead per­for­mances (if strug­gling with poorly ex­plained char­ac­ters) and a neat score by Tin­der­sticks’ Dickon Hinch­liffe. Not quite enough to make a cred­i­ble whole but an­other plus for Wor­thing­ton. And for Ami Mann, some­thing promis­ing beck­ons.

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