* (out of four)
Little Texas City, Texas, is mostly populated with pimps, underage prostitutes and other shady characters, including a tattooed thug (Jason Clarke) who’s usually just referred to as “the white guy.” So it’s no shocker that detectives Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Souder (Sam Worthington, expressionless again), struggle to get a handle on a rash of dead girls found in the “killing fields.” Perhaps changing that name would prevent such bad things from happening there?
The buzz: Hopefully Worthington and Jessica Chastain, wjho plays Souder’s fellow cop ex-wife, like each other, since they just made another thriller together (“The Debt”). “Texas Killing Fields” is the feature debut for Ami Canaan Mann, which explains why her father Michael Mann (“Heat,” “Public Enemies”) produced the movie but not why it lacks dad’s knack for establishing a rich sense of place.
The verdict: Movies “inspired by a true story” rarely have so little detail. There are good guys and bad guys and the complexity ends there, with no sense of anybody’s motivation or relationship to one another. As a young girl caught in the middle of the madness, Chloe Grace Moretz (“Let Me In”) largely wanders around in a daze, and Morgan embarrasses himself during what’s supposed to be an emotional breakdown for a cop who doesn’t give a damn about jurisdiction and won’t stop until the case is cracked! The police intelligence also couldn’t be more basic—oh, really, do you think those sleazy dudes changed the license plate on their car? Doesn’t matter. The ending (spoiler alert!), in which the killers off each other and require the cops to do nothing, brings new meaning to the word anticlimactic.
Did you know? Souder recalls his dad’s old saying, “Sometimes you get, sometimes you get got.” So profound, right?
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the Umpais@tribune.com. @mattpais