Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard, Kelly Macdonald, Mary Steenburgen, Justina Machado, Ned Beatty, James Gammon, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Levon Helm, Buddy Guy, Julio Cedillo, Alana Locke, John Sayles
Written by: Jerzy Kromolowski, Mary Olson-Kromolowski, based on a novel by James Lee Burke
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 102
Date: 02/07/2009
IMDB

In the Electric Mist (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Big Brush-Off

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The last time one of James Lee Burke's mystery novels saw the big screen treatment, the result, Heaven's Prisoners (1996), was shrugged off, ignored and/or despised. Now the acclaimed French director Bertrand Tavernier (Coup de Torchon, 'Round Midnight) has made a second attempt with In the Electric Mist, and the final product is much more interesting. And yet, for some reason, the film has skipped theatrical release and gone straight to video. Tommy Lee Jones is just right as Burke's New Orleans police detective Dave Robicheaux, who was previously played by a miscast Alec Baldwin. Robicheaux is a recovering alcoholic who sees ghosts of Civil War generals; his wife (Mary Steenburgen) is still alive in this one, and though Burke's original novel was written in 1993, the events of this film take place after Hurricane Katrina. The movie has a nice rundown feel, with residents having just scraped bottom and starting to climb back up again. In the film, Robicheaux is looking for the killer of a young hooker, and he thinks local bigwig Julie 'Baby Feet' Balboni (John Goodman) may be involved. Meanwhile, an alcoholic movie star Elrod Sykes (Peter Sarsgaard) and his pretty girlfriend Kelly Drummond (Kelly Macdonald) have arrived in town to shoot a movie. While in the swamps, Elrod has discovered the decades-old bones of a black man. Robicheaux bounces back and forth between the two cases, but wouldn't it be funny if they were connected? To be sure, Tavernier and his scriptwriters Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary Olson-Kromolowski seem overwhelmed by the plot, but the film's atmosphere is so potent and the characters so richly drawn that we can forgive a few odd connections and coincidences. Tavernier also really clings to the extreme darkness and violence from the books, which may be the real reason this film is getting the big brush off. Image Entertainment distributed the 2009 DVD with no frills or extras.

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