By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com August 2, 2011 at 1:01AM
The most surprising pick in the line-up of the Venice Film Festival was undoubtedly "Texas Killing Fields." The latest attempt from "Avatar" star Sam Worthington to return to non-tentpole territory, following the tepidly received "Last Night" and the long-delayed "The Debt," is a based-in-fact thriller revolving around a series of unsolved murders in League City, Texas, where 21 women were killed or disappeared since 1971, and marks the big-screen coming out party of Ami Canaan Mann, daughter of "Heat" director Michael Mann, who makes her directorial debut with the film.
Word had been fairly quiet on the project, other than the news that horror specialists Anchor Bay had picked up the distribution rights, so we hadn't been expecting much, but the film's in-competition placement piqued our interest, and now Dread Central has dug up an Italian trailer that provides our first real look. Could it be that it'll be closer to "Zodiac" than to something like "Horsemen"?
Frankly, it's too early to tell (particularly with the dialogue all being in Italian), but there's some reason for optimism here: the apple doesn't seem to have fallen far from the tree for Mann Jr, whose biggest credit to date was an episode of TV's "Friday Night Lights," and there's an assured sense of period and some very atmospheric imagery. And the cast, which also includes Chloe Moretz, Stephen Graham, Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke, seems to be promising -- interestingly, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Worthington's partner, a role mooted at one point for Bradley Cooper, gets far more face time than his co-star, and may even be the lead, despite his second billing.
At the same time, it doesn't seem to be that different from your average episode of, say, "Criminal Minds," so we're still curious as to why it's hitting the festival circuit among such prestigious competition, although a decent, frills-free serial killer procedural wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, considering how long it's been since one of those came along. Hopefully an English-language trailer will arrive fairly soon so we can get a better look at things, and we should be bringing you our verdict on the film when it bows at the Lido in the first week of September.