In the Electric Mist (2009)
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John Goodman is so versatile that I didn't recognize him as the same actor who was in The Big Lebowski which I had watched only the day before. The script was so adept that they handled the issues of race relations in what I considered a realistic manner without any preaching. The settings, whether swamps at night, Southern mansions, broken down shacks, or merely country scenery all seemed highly realistic. The editing was excellent. Thus, the timing of most scenes was just right, so there wasn't the problem of boredom.
The only reason I gave the movie an 8 rather than a 10 is that it suffered from too much mumbled dialogue, so you have to be willing to live with about 25% of dialogue shooting past you (unless perhaps you are from "Loozyana"), and perhaps missing some of the relationships between people early on. However, while this meant that you might miss out on some of the subtleties, the story is not that fast moving and complex that it warrants bypassing the movie, given all its virtues.
The performances were dead on. TLJ hits Dave Robicheaux on the button. But the best is Mary Steenburgen as Bootsie. She really nails this part.
The story is about a Cajun cop who is haunted by his own demons, and by the demons he faces in his work as an Iberia Parish Deputy. The characters he meets in trying to solve the murders are so true to life that you wonder if the people playing the parts were really actors. John Goodman is great, as usual, as is Ned Beatty.
While a good old fashion murder mystery awaits you, what is more important, as it is in the novels by James Lee Burke, is the story of Robicheaux. He is a man who has a strong moral code, yet is violent, alcoholic, and continually puts his family in danger. The complexity of his character is difficult to portray, but TLJ does it better than anyone else could.
It is a fine, beautiful movie. Now if only another movie could be made that also includes Clete Purcell, one of the best sidekicks ever written in a mystery novel series.
Set in modern day South Louisiana, near New Orleans, "In The Electric Mist" absolutely drips with authentic Cajun atmosphere. The place names, the rustic look of old frame houses, the backwater bayous with lush vegetation, those wonderful Louisiana accents, the outdoor barbecue at a plantation house ... You feel like you're really there, in that place. It's the best element of the film, by far.
The film's casting and acting are quite good. And the music is terrific. At the end credits the song played is the haunting "La Terre Tremblante", with its mystical-Blues sound and French lyrics. The song is straight out of Cajun country, and it is mesmerizing.
Unfortunately, the film's plot is muddled. Editing is terrible. And the film's ending is very unsatisfying. My understanding is that the film went through some serious post-production issues, the most significant being the deletion of a number of scenes. These deletions may account for plot problems associated with choppy flow and lack of clarity.
Even so, "In The Electric Mist" is still worth watching, not so much for the story or plot as for the evocative Cajun atmosphere and that terrific music.
In the Electric Mist is rich in atmosphere, and that is perhaps its strongest point. All aspects of the film-making process come together to drive home the feeling of the Lousiana bayou, from the detailed sets to the slow pace to the contrast between the simmering intensity of the true Louisiana folks with the outlandish extroversion of the outsiders and the locals who have been won over by Hollywood culture. It is a movie best experienced with your full attention.
There is a strong sense of suspense in the film, but it is delivered through tragedy and the search for resolution, not high action. While Tommy Lee Jones delivers the sort of performance one might expect and there are certainly plenty of thriller mainstay elements, this is not an action piece, an in intrigue, or a intricate mystery. If you cannot get invested in the tension of a complicated shades-of-grey lead character and his search for answers to questions that may not e fully expressed, the suspense will likely escape you and you will be left with a slow movie with an unsurprising plot. And if you cannot get absorbed into the play of contrasts and dialectics within the fabric of the rural Louisiana cultural fabric, you probably find the message trite, the ending too neat, and some of the performances (e.g., John Goodman as Baby Feet Balboni) as over-the-top and distracting. But if you can allow yourself to experience the film through Jones' Robicheaux, you will find yourself sharing his internal conflict, delighting in bright spots of energy like Alana Locke's Alafair, and clinging to a misty hope for resolution.
You cannot put strong actors in the same scenes with weak ones. But good actors together can make a scene--witness the last confrontation between Tommy Lee's Robicheaux and Ned Beatty's Lemoyne.
So, solid direction, much strong acting, faithful to the book, great sets and setting, all brought lower by some bad casting. Still, I think this one deserves more respect, especially compared to many of this year's "Oscar worthy" films.
The story is set in the swamps of Louisiana and features detective David Robicheaux which some may remember as having been played by Alec Baldwin in Heaven's Prisoner more than a decade before this film was made (the character is inspired by the same series of novels). The atmosphere of the Cajun country with its fogs and smells, legends and collection of unique characters makes for a good background for mysteries and hidden secrets and Tavernier makes a good use of it in a way that predicts Beasts of the Southern Wild. Nobody is surprised when generals and soldiers from the Civil War fought more than a century before show up from behind the fogs, and the phantoms of the older conflicts of race and class mix with the personal daemons the heroes have to face.
Watching Tommy Lee Jones playing the justice-driven detective (although his means are not always really orthodox) is always a pleasure, and to a large extent the film relies on him. He is helped by an excellent supporting cast, with John Goodman featuring as one of the lead bad guys, and Mary Steenburgen as the classy wife of Robicheaux. While the script does not really close perfectly every corner of the story, there is cursive story telling in the style of the big detective American novels of the 40s, and the heroes have the same naive faith that the good cause of justice is worth risking everything to have it prevail. Bertrand Tavernier has filmed with European lens a very American story in a very American landscape, and despite the relative low-key ending (maybe the weak part of the movie) it's a good film to look for and watch.
One might argue that this kind of a role is almost type casting for Tommy Lee Jones but I would argue otherwise. An actor works with what he has and TLJ has always been able to use his face to great advantage from a stone-cold glare to a sheepish grin. The story is told from his character's point of view, in this case, a person with an uncompromising sense of justice-- not a paragon of virtue, by any means, but one who refuses to sacrifice his principles of right and wrong, i.e., the hero with a decidedly human face. The tension does not let up as the hunt draws closer and closer to the conclusion. While I think the little coda at the end was unneeded, it still works to make a good story.
This tragic story about a detective investigating a murder is just pure intensity. But it's not action film intensity, it's the intensity of the pursuit of justice. So much unfortunate murders, innocents forced and the power brokers not caring about anyone else but themselves and their own fortune.
There are only a few shows I've watched where I felt like I could feel what it's like to be in the part of the country where it was filmed, and this is without a doubt one of them. The deep, dark, sultry bowels of Louisiana. Stunning landscapes, intense humidity, mosquito's almost as big as the ones in Northern Minnesota, just breathtaking location filming. Moody without being over-dramatic, enriching and intricate plot and story.
This may have been an accidental find, but I'm sure glad I stumbled onto it. Wonderful movie, highly recommended.
In was back in the summer of 1965 that escaped black fugitive Dewitt Prejean, Chukwuma Onwuchekw, was gunned down in the Atchafalaya swamp by two perusing correction officers. Prejean's body was found some 43 years later when a motion picture company was making a Civil War film in and around the swamp. The person who found Prejean's remains was the star of the film actor Elrod Sykes, Peter Sarsgaard, who later had the misfortune of being stopped, while driving drunk, by Officer Robicheaux! In trying to talk Officer Robicheaux in not giving him a ticket Sykes, who was also driving with a suspended license, told him about what he found in the swamp and a light blob lit up in the lawman's head! Robicheaux witnessed Prejean's murder!
The film "The Electric Mist" has two stories interconnecting with each other in it. That includes the Pregean murder back in 1965 and a number of local hooker killings some 40 years later in the same general area; The Iberian Perish deep in the Louisiana Bayous. What connects these two crimes is that the person, or persons, responsible for them have something to do with the Civil War movie that's being made there in the almost impassable Atchafalaya Swamp!
The film leaves a lot of things up in the air in what's, and who's, behind the serial murders and even when it's over we never really know who the killer is. Officer Robicheaux's brutal and illegal methods in tracking down the elusive killer makes him anything but likable to the audience. The killer himself is always a step ahead of Robicheaux and even implicates the lawman as well as his FBI partner Agent Rosie Gomez,Justina Machado,in having them do his dirty work for him. We also have Officer Robicheaux get help in solving the hooker killings from an unexpected source! Civil War Confederate General John Bell Hood, Levon Holm. It was when Robicheaux got smashed by someone in a local bar slipping him a Mickey Finn, in his glass of Doctor Pepper, that he was able to conjure up the long dead general who gave him the clues to solve the murders.
The reformed and elderly, he's almost 60 years old in the movie, alcoholic lawman Robicheaux was a bit unbelievable in his being able to take on and beat silly people twice as big and half his age in the film. Even so Robicheaux's brutal tactics didn't bring in any results in having a number of key witness to the hooker murders end up dead because of them. As for the 43 year old mystery of who murdered Dewitt Prejean the film, including Robicheaux and those who murdered him, seemed to have almost completely forgot about it!
There's Cherry LeBlanc, a beautiful young girl on the game, sellin' her jellyroll. She'd been cut and eviscerated.
There's the dead girl they found stuffed in a barrel a few weeks ago who now has blue crabs crawling all over her. The coroner will only be able to get her out of that barrel in pieces.
And there's Dave Robicheaux, a cop in New Iberia, an alcoholic who hasn't yet fallen off the wagon, a Viet Nam vet, a tough man saddled with a conscience and a sense of morality who sometimes does righteous and violent things. "In the ancient world," Dave tells us, "people placed heavy stones on the graves of their dead so their souls would not wander and afflict the living. I always thought this was just the practice of superstitious and primitive people. But I was about to learn that the dead can hover on the edge of our vision with the density and luminosity of mist...and their claim on the earth can be as legitimate and tenacious as our own."
Don't let anyone tell you that In the Electric Mist isn't a very good movie, especially if you're fond of James Lee Burke's series of books featuring Robicheaux and the Cajun country of southern Louisiana. Dave (Tommy Lee Jones) is going to find himself searching for a serial killer who needs to cut prostitutes, and he's tormented by what was uncovered in that bayou. When Dave was a little boy he saw the shooting but not who did it. Forty years later he's going to find out who did it and why.
Bertrand Tavernier, the director, is going to take us on a journey into bayou Louisiana centered around New Iberia parish where the conditions of life haven't changed much for a lot of people. Along the way we're going to meet all kinds of characters, and this is one of the movie's strengths. Dave may have a good marriage to a strong woman (Mary Steenburgen), but there's also that childhood friend who now is the sociopath Julie "Baby Feet' Balboni (played with great, vicious style by John Goodman). Feets is back in New Iberia because he's backing a movie being filmed nearby. There are aging good ol' boys and blacks who respect Dave but know when to be cautious. There's his daughter Alafair and even a couple of movie stars, Elrod Sykes (Peter Sarsgard) and Kelly Drummond (Kelly Macdonald). There are bayous thick with mosquitoes and trees heavy with moss. The dialogue is pungent and sounds natural. There's even Confederate General John Bell Hood who Dave finds himself talking to now and then. For most of the time, In the Electric Mist is a moody, sometimes vivid, occasionally violent story that has more to do with characters and relationships than murders.
This is Tommy Lee Jones' movie. He's in almost every scene. He provides the occasional narrative. His introspective discussions with Hood give us insights to his conflicts (which some of us may or not feel adds to the story). With all the good things about the movie, though, there are three significant weaknesses. First, Jones is too old for the part. He can play tired, seen-it-all types better than most, but he's noticeably older than almost everyone else in the movie. Second, I'm one of those who could easily do without, in the movie as well as in the book, the Confederate specters providing an excuse for Dave's angst and Hood as an excuse for insights into Dave's soul. For me, this is a just a literary device that comes off as unneeded and awkward. Third, the movie attempts to bring the conclusion together too quickly. The knots get tied, but we have no time to satisfactorily understand a couple of the story threads or to savor the conclusion of a movie whose style and characters gave so much pleasure.
Well, we can't always get everything we want. What we do get is darn good. The background to the movie, however, might scare us off. Evidently Tavernier and Jones did not see eye to eye as the movie was being filmed. The American producer took Tavernier's cut, chopped off 15 minutes and released the movie direct to DVD in the United States. The movie was released to theaters worldwide elsewhere with Tavernier's 117 minute cut. I've heard one or two critics say that the U.S. DVD release is hard to follow. No it isn't. There is only one part of the story where some useful motivation was evidently hacked up. I'd certainly like to see Tavernier's version. Just stay alert and you'll have few problems.
Bernard Tavernier is one of the best directors around. To get a glimpse of his style and variety, try Coup du Torchon (1981), a supremely mordant and cynical black comedy; D'Artagnan's Daughter (1994), a flashy costume adventure; and Life and Nothing But (1989), a sad and thoughtful film. Tavernier often used Philippe Noiret in his films; it was a great partnership.
We'll let Dave have the last word after he's solved the crimes and confronted one of perpetrators. "Have you no mercy, sir?" asks the aging man.
"No, sir," Dave says. "No, sir, I don't."
As usual, Tommy Lee Jones is truly outstanding as the no-messing enforcement officer but the quality of acting from everyone involved, even the insignificant characters, has to be commended.
The only fault I can find with the entire movie and the reason I only scored it 9 is the botched or should I say butchered editing which has got to be one of the worst attempts I have ever come across and can leave you highly confused at certain points of the film. Fortunately, this can be mostly overcome by buying the 117 min Australian TFI international version which is pieced together with more thought for the viewer. I won't go into the finer details concerning important pieces being omitted and how they drastically affect the film but if you watch all the different versions available, and believe me there are a few, you will understand exactly what I mean.
While watching the movie I wondered who had written the compelling screenplay and discovered after-wards it was Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary Olson Kromolowski who also wrote the screenplay for The Pledge with Jack Nicholson which is another outstanding movie. Let's hope they get the chance to display their talents on future movies, no doubt their class will come shining through and leave us with an end product we'll all thoroughly appreciate.
I'm looking forward to seeing Tommy in the new Jason Bourne movie. Although the utterly brilliant Bourne franchise does not need any kind of improving, Tommy will definitely add something that wasn't there previously.
A very versatile all-star cast featuring: Peter Sarsgaard, Ned Beatty, Mary Steenburgen, Mary Macdonald, James Gammonn Levon Helm and Justina Machado.
Like they used to say in the 1920s, everyone's a critic.
Truer than ever I suppose, with the IMDb.
But the strange thing is that I have now seen this movie beginning to end about a half-dozen times and I don't tire of it.
Especially with some 600 IMDb reviews under my belt, even I get curious when it is so easy to get lost, to lose time, in what seems at first glance to be just another police procedural with multiple instances of the word "chere" in the script...?
Then I look closer and go aha! Jones and Goodman. Jones and Goodman. Jones and Goodman.
Two of the best that Hollywood ever produced, each an extraordinarily well-rounded actor, yet each with a special gift at portraying one specific type of character.
Jones portraying a cop with no off button, who only knows that every crime must be solved.
And Goodman playing a larger than life character who only knows that every event in his life must end with him on top, no matter who has to die in the process. Literally.
They take a mundane procedural to the level of art.
Mary Steenburgen helps. The whole supporting cast is fine.
But Jones and Goodman are doing their best work here, leaving a legacy for actors of the future to study.
And no one noticed.
Until just now.
Like most noirs, a dead body sets things in motion, or hero propelled into a labyrinthine world of cover ups, conspiracy, racism and murder. Robicheaux connects the dots, and we with him.
The film takes a couple bad steps – our hero's daughter is kidnapped (a needless cliché) and several surreal dream sequences (jarring) – but for the most part this is genre fare done right. Director Bertrand Tavernier paints a moody, misty Louisiana, and he maintains a pleasantly relaxed tone throughout; the tempo of the Deep South.
7.9/10 – When stacked up to next generation noirs ("The Wire", "Eyes Wide Shut", "Inland Empire", "Boarding Gate" etc), this is thoroughly retro. Worth one viewing.
The acting is serviceable in both versions, but the lack of a back story (and thus motivation) makes some of the character actions seem out of place and silly.
I happen to like Heaven's Prisoners a lot more than anyone has any right to, and I think Tommy Lee Jones is a very good replacement for Baldwin. Gone is the optimistic charm of old Dave, hello new Dave that is bitter by what life has shown him. But a lot of that is lost in the American DVD.
SWMBO and I were in New Iberia about two months ago, and it was interesting to see places in the movie I had just been. The trip itself really did wonders for filling the blanks in my imagination, so the movie was a "two-fer", so to speak.
The only thing that this movie really needed was for Tommy Lee to do a good Cajun accent.
Apart from that, it's a good adaptation of the novel. The scenes that were cut, for the most part, did not hinder the flow of the movie and Tommy Lee brings Dave to life in a very nice way.