I’ve had Ford trucks, I’ve got a Chevy truck now. Never had a GMC, but my brother-in-law has one, and it’s a pretty sweet ride. Tommy Lee Jones must think so too, because fully a fifth of “In the Electric Mist” running time consists of Tommy driving in his GMC, parking his GMC, standing around his GMC…
Considering that running time is short, there are a whole lot of arrival scenes of Tommy Lee Jones driving and arriving. And yet, this movie scans like large chunks of the exposition and police procedural have been edited out. Or never shot at all. Voice-overs move us from one spot in the timeline to the next, with only the pickup moving us along. Strange, and not that effective.
Unlike some reviewers, I’ve never read the book. So maybe that’s a faithful adaptation of James Lee Burke’s novel. Or not. But the narrative is disjointed and for once, the voice-over is necessary to keep us up with the missing exposition.
The plot is pretty straightforward southern gothic, missing girls turning up dead, body in the bayou, sinister powerful men with accents. Nothing not seen before. What does set this picture apart is the appearance of a dead Confederate general. Truly a “What th’?” moment. I suppose General Hood’s ghostly apparition does set “Electric Mist” apart from the average swamp murder movie. But….I do not get the point of it. The book must explain it better. Is this supposed to be an LSD hangover in Tommy Lee’s head? Or do the Confederate dead really walk the swamps? And if so, why appear to Tommy Lee Jones?
And would the honorable General approve of Tommy Lee planting evidence, beating suspects, using throw-down guns, breaking and entering, beating John Goodman? Hard to say. I guess ends, means, justified. Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens would’ve done the same things, probably. This is an odd movie, and not a very successful one. The plot makes little sense, or maybe that parts left out would make it more believable. Taking one point, where Tommy Lee shoots up a Buick and supposedly a witness, wouldn’t even backwoods Louisiana forensics made if obvious Tommy didn’t kill her? Like, ballistics? So why go to all the trouble instead of just disappearing the informant? There’s a bayou on every corner. Ditto shooting a cop from ambush. How much more attention can any perp draw to himself than shooting at the police? Every law enforcement in Louisiana would converge on the parish and not stop until Murphy Doucet was alligator chow. Even more so, kidnapping a police’s child. And rolling up on the desperado’s hideout with no backup?
I watched because of John Goodman, who’s usually entertaining, and Tommy Lee Jones, who has the most extensive earlobes on anyone except a basset hound. He’s not fully into his “No Country for Old Men” laconic competent phase, but you can see it through the “Electric Mists”. Goodman is kind of disappointing, a rote performance of a sleazy degenerate that he could do in his sleep.
And the whole production looks like a TV movie. Speaking of movies, the movie-within-a-movie thing is referred to only in passing. Except for some set trailers, we see nothing of what would be the biggest deal in the parish ever. With Hollywood stars and Mafiosi and all. Peter Sarsgaard really hung around to finish this unseen movie even after his long-time companion Kelly Macdonald gets killed? That’s dedication to the craft. Sarsgaard is pretty blah as the drunk movie star. Macdonald’s part is almost as underwritten as Mary Steenbergen’s, women who exist to expostulate with the men (and in Macdonald’s role, get killed for their trouble). Always nice to see Ned Beatty, though, even though it’s pretty much a cameo. Aside from Jones, I don’t think any actor gets as much screen time as the nice GMC. But I like that model, so I’ll throw in an extra star.