Tommy Lee Jones’ craggy face suits half-broken characters. Downtrodden, world weary, lost – these are just a few of the adjectives that tend to accompany the sorts of roles he plays.
Based on a James Lee Burke novel, In The Electric Mist features a lead performance by Jones. He plays Dave Robicheaux, a detective working in the southern states, who is also a weary alcoholic. Nothing new there, then.
Robicheaux spends his days not drinking, but still hangs around in bars, just to make his life that little bit more difficult. Nothing comes easy to him. You don’t get a face that lined for nothing, after all.
In The Electric Mist sets up Robicheaux’s dreary, painful existence for a while, peppering it with a couple of dead bodies and plenty of deep south accents for that real Iberia Parish feel. (That’s where the film’s set.) He’s working on a case involving the murder of a young woman, but soon enough Peter Sarsgaard, essentially playing real-life lookalike Kiefer Sutherland (Elrod Sykes), turns up to cause some trouble.
Like Robicheaux, movie star Sykes is an alcoholic, but one that is certainly not reformed. Following some awkward exposition, Sykes starts helping out the investigators with the murder inquiry, and the two leads strike up a strange sort of mutually disapproving friendship.
Around this central relationship all sorts of odd narrative threads fly about, most of which aren’t explored or concluded properly. Robicheaux starts seeing Confederate ghosts dredged up from the Civil War, but we’re never quite sure why, even when they start doling out advice. Is he mad? Is he being quizzed by some long-dead relative? Is the Iberia Parish swamp gas just particularly potent?
All of these are alluded to, but In The Electric Mist offers no real conclusions. Films that leave an audience with questions – even if those questions leave them right royally peeved – are fine. The problem with In the Electric Mist is that, whichever road you explore, all end up in a pretty uninteresting place.
You don’t exactly leave the film bored, just wondering what you were meant to care about exactly. In the Electric Mist‘s narrative is like a full clothes line blowing in the end. You’re given a few saucy glimpses of something interesting, but, try as you might, making a story out of it will just lead you doing exactly that – making up your own story.
Too many subplots mean that the murder case that’s meant to be the film’s meat is, at times, almost completely forgotten. So, when it turns up again at the film’s coda, you quite simply don’t care. Ah, it was him! So what?
The meandering structure does suit the ambling way of life that infests Iberia Parish, but it doesn’t make for compelling viewing. Tommy Lee Jones is grumpy enough to add some consistency to Robicheaux’s character, and Sargaard hams it up enough to be enjoyable to watch, but you’re left with more memories of the flailing failures of In The Electric Mist than anything else.
The Blu-ray of In The Electric Mist features absolutely no extras. The picture quality is decent, but there’s little to shout about in terms of visuals or great audio moments in this film. It’s not really worth splashing out the extra cash for the Blu-ray.
In The Electric Mist is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.