In the Electric Mist Review

The Film

Watching a great actor in a perfect role surrounded by an excellent cast and directed by a master film-maker, I was suddenly reminded of the famous exchange between bad pianist Eric Morecambe and top conductor Andre Previn:

Previn: "But you're playing all the wrong notes..."
Morecambe: "I am playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order"

I note this as In The Electric Mist is very definitely less than the sum of it's parts. It should be able to build on the legacy of recent movies like No Country For Old Men and the similar roles that the wonderful Tommy Lee Jones and the fine Kelly Macdonald played there. It should benefit from having the likes of John Goodman as a slimy gangster, and it most definitely should achieve much more given the direction of the great Bertrand Tavernier. Yet, it is a two paced rather flat film that functions only adequately as a thriller and merely satisfactorily as a literary adaptation.

There were problems. Tavernier arranged for this film to be released in cinemas in the rest of the world with his favoured cut, but in the States his producers had their way and edited the film according to their needs. Additionally, some of Lee Jones' ideas on character development caused Tavernier to threaten to walk off the picture and there were tensions between the two men on set. This may go some way to explaining why the finished movie feels so ordinary, and how, given the fantastical elements of the source material, the film is just so quotidian.
The story features lawman Jones looking into two murders, one from the distant past that he witnessed as a child and the second is a depraved killing of a young prostitute. Jones narrates the story in typically lugubrious fashion, and his character acts similarly to his role in the Coens' film as an offbeat observer of modern life - a moral agent in a somewhat immoral world. Involved in the plot are a drunken actor and his long-suffering girlfriend, played by Macdonald, and the beastly John Goodman as a sleazy crime boss/adult film producer. The solution to both murders is eventually revealed after story development allows Lee Jones to reflect on the sins of the past and his own weaknesses.

Presented here in a 102 minute cut, I guess that is the producer's cut, In The Electric Mist is underwhelming. I suppose the longer version could deepen the fantastical elements and improve the exposition and the exploration of thematic concerns that don't quite work here, but I am not certain. Little effort is given to understanding the lawman's achilles' heal, and little is done to draw comparisons and properly explain some of the similarly afflicted characters, and, apart from one intriguing dream sequence, the hallucinations of the formerly drunken detective are rendered in a static, almost prosaic, way. It has to be said that the lack of elegance in the film's delivery makes the experience of watching it a rather spartan one.

This I suppose is Tavernier's low-key style and some of the performances of supporting cast do seem to be coming from non-actors, but I do wonder whether a film about a hallucinating detective is best delivered in such a matter of fact fashion. In The Electric Mist is unimpressive despite good acting and interesting Louisiana locations, and this is hard to explain why. It could be too familiar, it could be cut poorly and it may very well be cleverer than I imagine, but most likely it disappoints because that great ingredients have not risen to the challenge of the recipe.
It didn't grip me, move me, or excite me despite it's basic competence and decent final act. In The Electric Mist would probably do you as an unsurprising night-in or a less bloody, and less impressive, reminder of the Coen brothers film that Jones and Macdonald graced as well. All the right notes are present but they don't form an appropriately pleasing tune.

Technical Specs

The film is given an MPEG-2 1080P transfer with a frame-rate of exactly 24 per second. The movie is presented at 2.35:1 and the filesize for the film takes up 17.1GB of this single layer region B coded disc. Detail on this transfer is pretty good in lighter sequences but shadow detail is less striking and generally the contrast does not yield blacks as deep as you might want. Greens and reds seem rather hot, which may be intended for the look of the film but still seemed a little too strong to my eye. There is some minor edge enhancement and a pleasant amount of grain, and I would say that the visual treatment is slightly below average.
No lossless options are offered. There is a high bitrate surround mix which does manage to offer good coverage and atmosphere, along with a decent rumbling subwoofer track. By contrast the stereo track is rather flat and unimpressive.

Special features

This is a very basic disc with a dull basic option static menu and forced trailers when you load the disc. The trailers are for standard American indie fare and frankly show you just what has happened to the careers of Meg Ryan and Pierce Brosnan. The trailers are presented in standard definition.


As a film, it's not great and it should have been. As a blu-ray you will want to think about the superior options offered by the US disc and then the French blu-ray which actually uses the director's cut.

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out of 10

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