2014 / Director. Samantha Lang.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
THE KILLING FIELD has stretched my ability to suspend disbelief to its limits. Here is a film that attempts to be Australia's answer to TRUE DETECTIVE and yet despite all attempts at realism it's strung together with so many absurdities that it ends up being a frustrating trial of the audience's tolerance.
The film follows a team of city homicide detectives stuck in a small rural community, racing against the clock to catch a suspected serial killer. With five shallow graves side by side with decomposed bodies spanning multiple timelines and the disappearance of a local girl, they collect a short list of suspects and pick away at the details to identify the killer before the missing girl dies.
Upon appearance THE KILLING FIELD is a solid film. It looks fantastic with strong cinematography and an effective small town production. The depiction of small-town mentality is captured really well and will ring true to anyone who's been fortunate (or unfortunate) to have lived in one. The cast is great with Rebecca Gibney and Peter O'Brien leading the charge and the story itself is well conceived with the makings of a great thriller.
Unfortunately a strong story is redundant without a good script, and the script for this film is awful. There's nothing wrong with the dialogue, however, the procedural details and conduct of the seasoned detectives is incomprehensible and defies belief. At almost every step in their investigation they abandon common sense and break, what I would consider to be, basic fundamental rules of the job. They openly discuss the crime in-front of bystanders, including several of the suspects themselves. They break new leads to each other at the pub at the top of their voice and they accuse a suspect (without arrest) in front of an angry mob of locals. These are serious breaks from reality that are both unnecessary and detrimental to the quality of the film.
I really wanted to like this one, but it lost me to it's incompetence. The good news is that the film spawned a 6-episode spin-off series, WINTER, which follows Gibney's character as she works on a new case. With a longer format I am hoping that it provides more intricate narrative with more attention to detail.