Retro Streaming – #4 In The Electric Mist (2009)


A detective in post Katrina New Orleans area has a series of surreal encounters with a troop of friendly Confederate soldiers while investigating serial killings of local prostitutes, a 1965 lynching and corrupt local businessmen. Seriously…

My Take

I’ll admit when I saw Space Jam in the list of films that could be thrown out of the randomiser I secretly hoped I would get Space Jam. It’s a film that holds great memories. I saw it when I was 12 in the cinema as part of my buddy’s birthday party. They had an ice cream bar and I ate ice cream till I puked. It was a good day.

But instead I got this and now I have to write about it.

In The Electric Mist

The fact I had never heard of this movie with Tommy Lee Jones and John Goodman in it should tell you something. I would expect to have at least heard of it by accident. Maybe this was a little gem that slipped through the net. After all Tommy Lee rarely does crap. Turns out I think this never made it to UK cinemas. In fact it never made it to US cinemas and went straight to DVD. I hadn’t missed much.

As you may gather from the synopsis there are a lot of stories in play here; by the numbers serial killer thriller; grizzled cop trying to solve an old murder psychological drama; elements of surrealism. The problem is it spreads itself so thin trying to cover all the stories it ends up skating over all of them. For instance the “serial killer” story supposedly centred around someone killing prostitutes. There were two dead girls. One confirmed prostitute and one unidentified girl. That’s at best serial killer ‘lite’. And the presence of the dead Confederate General was the laziest piece of exposition, turning up to pose searching questions when Tommy Lee was having crises of character. It was so crowbarred in I am surprised the writers didn’t get arrested for brandishing an offence weapon or going equipped.

I honestly couldn’t really tell you what any one storyline had to do with the other. I know they were intertwined because I heard Tommy Lee talking about them. But when the credits rolled I had no idea what had just happened. Not because it was complex but because about half way through I stopped caring and drifted in and out for the remainder.

The tone of the film feels like an above average TV movie. There were some weirdly dated 80’s style dissolves between scenes. Tommy Lee Jones phoned it in, which meant he spent the whole movie looking particularly pissed off and drawling everything in a Southern monotone accent.  I think there must be a physical law that states everytime Tommy Lee Jones smiles a child dies, because it is unnatural how little he smiles. Except when he does smile you remember it’s like watching a shark getting his prostate probed so maybe best he sticks to dour.

The screenplay was adapted from a book and I got the sense they couldn’t bear to edit all the strands of the book down so tried to cram it all in to the film. Like the random movie stars played by Peter Sarsgaard and Kelly MacDonald. I get their presence could be explained by a movie being filmed in the town. But that didn’t make their characters presence in the story any less unnecessary. It was just clutter. The writers should be profiled on an episode of Hoarders.

Conclusion: The presence of John Goodman and Tommy Lee Jones keep the thing from feeling like a total waste of time. But that doesn’t mean I would recommend it to anyone, unless you wanted to watch something on Channel 5 at 3 in the morning whilst feeding your newborn baby. Perhaps then. Perhaps.

Lets hope next time I get something that does one story and does it well. Or Space Jam.

Verdict: Watch at your discretion


Running Time: 98 mins   Release Date: 15/04/2009

Tagline: No one can escape the sins of the past (or this movie)

Director: Bertrand Tavernier – French director with a huuuuugggee back catalogue of French films I have never seen. Going to assume they involve a lot half naked women smoking whilst contemplating existentialism and dudes in turtle neck sweaters discussing the artistic value of semen. In an awesome way.

Written By: Jerzy Kromolowski & Mary Olson-Kromolowski (screenplay) – Polish husband and wife due whose only other credit is unbelievably depressing Jack Nicholson cop drama The Pledge (2001). Based on the James Lee Burke novel “In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead”.

Key Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard, Mary Steenburgen, Kelly MacDonald and Ned Beatty

Other Things I Noted

  • John Goodman’s character look like The Dude had turned criminal and put on 250lbs.
  • Garry Grubbs looks like Rick Perry in 20 years

Top TV Connections

1. Justine Machado (Vanessa Diaz on Six Feet Under) as Special Agent Rosie Gomez


  • None of this was quoteable

Fun Facts

  • Never released theatrically in the U.S., where it went straight to DVD.
  • The U.S. Army installation Ft. Hood in Texas, is named after Gen. John Bell Hood (Levon Helm’s character), the site of the 2009 massacre.

Streaming now on Love Film


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