Today’s Prayer Focus

In the Electric Mist

MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity.

Reviewed by: B.R. Badger

Moral Rating: Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Mystery Suspense Psychological Thriller Drama Adaptation
Length: 1 hr. 42. min.
Year of Release: 2009
USA Release: February 20, 2009
DVD: March 3, 2009
Featuring Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Ned Beatty, Peter Sarsgaard, Kelly Macdonald, Mary Steenburgen, See all »
Director Bertrand Tavernier
Producer Ithaca Pictures, Little Bear, TF1 International, See all »
Distributor Image Entertainment

“No one can escape the sins of the past.”

The film’s tagline is “No one can escape the sins of the past.” That line is very misleading as to the substance of “In The Electric Mist.” It’s really a hard film to describe, not only because it is dull, but the sporadic plot that desperately wants to be taken seriously.

Plot: Let me just show you how muddled the plot is.

Detective Dave Robicheaux (Tommy Lee Jones) is investigating the death of a young woman, and the manner of death immediately brings Julie “Baby Feet” Balboni (John Goodman) under suspicion. But there is no way of pinning Balboni to the crime, though he was acquainted with the woman.

A film is in production, as well, and Robicheaux runs into drunken lead actor Elrod Sykes, in several instances. The drunkard cuts a deal with Robicheaux, that if he shows Dave where a skeleton is in a swamp, he can’t be charged with a DUI. Robicheaux takes the deal, under light of recent circumstances, and the discovery of the bones brings back memories from his own past.

The plot doesn’t really thicken from there, but rather just goes. This film plays like a TV episode, skipping around to different characters, interrogations and some character moments. After taking a drink of Dr. Pepper laced with LSD, Dave starts having hallucinations of talking with a dead Confederate general. After this point… I can’t find words to describe the mess. I don’t fully understand what was happening all the time, and, to be honest, what I did understand was underwhelming.

The Scoop: I am a huge fan of Tommy Lee Jones and John Goodman, as well; seeing them on the cast was the reason I picked up this DVD. Here, both actors seem bored, Jones especially appears to be asleep most of the time. It’s as if both actors knew the material wasn’t good, but what else were they going to do, give up an acting job?

“In the Electric Mist” is based on a novel by James Lee Burke entitled In The Electric Mist With The Confederate Dead. It is number six in a series of novels about Detective Dave Robicheaux. I haven’t read it, so I don’t know if the book was good or not, but I do know the film isn’t.

The only connection the tagline has to the film is loose, but it refers to ***SPOILER ALERT*** when Dave was seventeen and witnessed a murder in the swamp. That victim was the skeleton discovered by Elrod Sykes. The “sins” of the two murderers comes to light when Dave remembers just who they were. It is also explained that one of the killers is also responsible for the two murders of young women in New Orleans.

Morally speaking, this film is offensive. Language consists of a handful of f-words, and plenty of sh*ts, d*mns and h*lls, all getting there turn in an appearance. The violence isn’t graphic, but it couldn’t make a PG-13. There is a peek at a woman’s hair and some unrecognizable substance in a barrel, and someone is shot on two occasions (several flashbacks depict the same act—this instance is bloodless).

Robicheaux enters Baby Feet’s trailer, where a woman is seductively pole-dancing. She leaves after Dave arrives.

On an interesting note, the version of the film here in the United States is apparently a Producer’s Cut, as the film was taken away from director Bertrand Tavernier in post-production. Europe received a restored Director’s Cut of the film, which runs at 114 minutes.

Though I greatly disliked this film and don’t recommend it to anyone, because it is dull and confusing (not to mention the worst “what in the world?” cop-out of an end I have ever witnessed, making an unwarranted supernatural connection just before credits roll), I do wonder if the Director’s Cut makes things more clear? Guess I’ll never know, but I really don’t care.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This was a good movie, seeing as how I am from Louisiana, and they did a good job with the characters and moral of the state. The film kept getting better and was very interesting, with many good characters and a good plot. Loved It! Tommy Lee was excellent in my opinion.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
Janice, age 32 (USA)
Negative—Just not a good movie overall. Tommy Lee Jones' performance was terrible. It was like he wasn’t interested and was just doing a film as a favor for someone. The plot, if you want to call it that, was very hard to follow, I guess because it kept bouncing all over. There was a lot of language. Several uses of the “F” word. The “N” word was also used a few times, and seemed to be justified by these people being “backwoods” from New Orleans and just don’t know any better. Don’t waste your money/time.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
Kevin, age 42 (USA)