In The Electric Mist * *

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Director: Bertrand Tavernier.
Screenplay: Jerzy Kromolowski, Mary Olson-Kromolowski.
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Kelly MacDonald, Peter Sarsgaard, Mary Steenburgen, Ned Beatty, James Gammon, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Levon Helm, Buddy Guy, John Sayles, Justina Machado, Julio Cedillo, Gary Grubbs.

Author James Lee Burke has been dishing out justice in numerous crime novels over the years but justice has never been done in a decent film adaptation of his work, and with this latest offering from director Bertrand Tavernier it looks like we’ll have to wait a while longer.

Recovering-alcoholic Louisana detective Dave Robicheaux (Tommy Lee Jones) is trying to solve a series of murders when the corpse of a black man killed forty years ago surfaces in a nearby marsh. Robicheaux remembers the man’s apparent disappearance but endevours to find out what really happened, implacating the local law enforcement and corrupt businessman ‘Baby Feet’ Balboni (John Goodman), while having visions of dead confederate soldiers, giving him advice.

A fine cast, a fine director and based on the novel of a fine crime writer still wasn’t enough to prevent this murder mystery from being flat and uneventful. Those unfamiliar with James Lee Burke’s character of Dave Robicheaux (Alec Baldwin last played him in “Heaven’s Prisoners”) may be a little puzzled as to his behaviour throughout. I wasn’t looking for Tavernier to labour the point but a little more of a back story on Robicheaux would have been beneficial, regardless of Jones putting in a typically good performance with what he had to work with. Goodman also does his best with the under-developed villian of the show and fine supporting actors are wasted in small and thankless roles. The major problem though, is the pace. It’s just too slow. I can cope fine with slow-burning murder mysteries. In fact I prefer them, but they have to have interesting characters and decent plot developments to keep it going. This has neither. It doesn’t even make good use of it’s excellent deep south setting or elaborate on it’s mystical undertones. The images of dead Confederates, who appear to Robicheaux, could have been omitted completely. Although, I imagine in the book they play a far bigger part. This film had so much potential but nothing seemed to gel or flow. The pace was all wrong; the majority of actors had nothing to do; there were several gaping plot holes and unexplained events, and the ending was rushed with a very lazy epilogue tacked on. Apparently the film went through some post production issues and went straight to DVD on it release. Now I can see why.

Slow and disappointing, considering the talent involved.

Mark Walker

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