Friday, July 09, 2010
For Rent: In The Electric Mist
For Dave Robicheaux, the recovering alcoholic cop at the center of James Lee Burke's novels, life is a roiling gumbo pot in which long-buried secrets simmer around, above, and below life in present-day Louisiana. That's certainly true in In The Electric Mist, directed by Bertrand Tavernier, an humid adaptation of one of the earliest books in the series. Robicheaux (previously played by Alec Baldwin in this) is played Tommy Lee Jones, who may be a shade too old for the role but who is an ideal choice to play a man with a heavy weight on his shoulders. Jones doesn't overplay Dave's demons and is right at home in the movie's fetid, close atmosphere. There's plenty for Robicheaux to do: a movie production nearby leads to Dave's encounter with a drunken celebrity (Peter Sarsgaard), the murder of a prostitute puts him in the way of a childhood friend turned pimp (John Goodman), and 40-year old remains found in a swamp bring up memories of a traumatic event from Dave's past. Jones only seems a little baffled during a scene in which Dave hallucinates a conversation with a Confederate General (Levon Helm). Burke's novels are as much about Dave's soul as they are about police procedure, and Tavernier honors the source material by cutting abruptly between scenes; the energy of the editing gives Jones's performance a harried edge and nicely dovetails with Dave's jagged psyche. An eclectic cast (John Sayles, Buddy Guy) adds color and there's great character work from Ned Beatty and James Gammon. If the resolutions to the various plotlines are a little underwhelming, that's because (as one character says), "This is still the state of Louisiana."