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Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-Ray Review: In the Electric Mist

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by PatWahlquist, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

    Jun 13, 2002
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    In the Electric Mist (Blu-Ray)

    Studio: Image Entertainment
    Rated: R (for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity)
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
    Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles: Spanish; English SDH
    Time: 102 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 2008
    Blu-Ray Release Date: March 3, 2009

    Lt. Dave Robicheaux (Tommy Lee Jones), a detective for New Iberia Parish, Louisiana, begins investigating the murder of a young girl named Cherry LeBlanc. His investigation leads him to those involved with making a movie around New Iberia, including the film’s director, its stars and most importantly, one of the producers, Julie “Baby Feet” Balboni. Balboni is a local mobster who is trying to diversify his money by investing in the picture. Robicheaux’s first contact with the crew comes when he pulls over the film’s star, tweeky Elrod Sykes (Peter Sarsgaard), who tries to get out of his DUI by leading Robicheaux to the remains of a body in the swamp. Sykes can’t stay off the booze and drugs and when he comes to Robicheaux’s bait shop talking about the ghosts of the confederate dead, Robicheaux writes it off as a figment of Sykes altered mind. Robicheaux intently pursues Balboni and others connected to him until their method of retaliation opens Robicheaux up to his past, the dead, and stunning violence that strikes him and his family.

    In the Electric Mist is based on author James Lee Burke’s novel of similar name, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (a title a bit long to put on the marquee). I have been a huge fan of Burke’s for many years reading all of his Robicheaux books over the past 22 years. One of the most striking things about Burke’s prose is the deep descriptions he gives the reader of Robicheaux’s world, vivid recounts of the smell of foods, the surrounding vegetation and just a few too many weather reports. All of that is stripped away here leaving the plot to stand on its own, which it does in fine measure. The novels have various themes running through Robicheaux’s life: alcoholism, violence, how the past haunts our present, and loss of the innocence of the past. Burke has explored these themes in each of the novels and they, for the most part, have been transferred over to the film. It’s difficult for me to step back and look at the movie knowing what I know about the books, trying to isolate this snapshot into Robicheaux’s life. However, as a fan, it is great to see Robicheaux’s world come to life, springing onto the screen from my imagination.

    Robicheaux made one other leap to the big screen in 1996’s Heaven’s Prisoners, where he was portrayed by the unusual choice of Alec Baldwin. I recently watched Heaven’s Prisoners again, and while I liked the adaptation, Baldwin just isn’t Robicheaux. He lacked the jaded seniority that is Robicheaux, a Viet Nam vet who crawled into the bottle to escape himself and his fears. Heaven’s Prisoners took on Robicheaux’s alcoholism full bore, while In the Electric Mist briefly mentions it leaving the casual viewer to even wonder why it was mentioned. Jones has spent at least ten years working to get this picture produced and he was an excellent choice for Robicheaux. Jones, at his age, portrays Robicheaux as the victim of his own demons who tries desperately to control the anger and sadness within him, each battle marked out in the lines on his face and the stoicism in his eyes. Baldwin brought that Hollywood flash to Robicheaux, but Jones brings him right back where he belongs as a citizen of New Iberia.

    In the Electric Mist, while not giving you the same intellectual experience as the novel, is a fine adaptation of one of the more memorable books in Burke’s series. I would even go so far as to say Robicheaux’s experiences with the ghosts of the past works better in the movie than it does in the book since in the former it consumes much more of the story. It is a vital component to the story, but the balance is better here. I think the screenwriters and director Bertrand Tavernier could have spent some more time on those aspects of Robicheaux’s personality I mentioned earlier, making the picture as much a character piece as it is a story. I could have liked another 30 minutes having Robicheaux meditate on the nature of all things good and evil, dead or alive, as well as beefing up his relationship with his daughter. Still, I am quite pleased to be able to pop in the disc and see that world come to life visually, hopefully opening up Robicheaux and his world to a whole new group of fans.

    Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

    The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The picture is shot very naturally and the actors take on a lush and colorful appearance showing nice differences between the individual skin tones. The setting of the deep south of Louisiana becomes another character here, and the trees, bayous, gin joints and thunderhead-filled-skies look spectacular and inviting. Black levels are excellent good shadow detail. The picture is slightly soft leaving some fine detail lost in the mix and mild grain is evident in the image. Edge enhancement was noticed as was a couple instances of print dirt.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is put to pretty good use. The film itself tends to be a lot of talking heads relegated to the front channels. However, when the action or the Creole music kicks in we are treated to an immersive and warm surround field that gives you an excellent “you are there” feel. This was especially evident in the scene at the plantation house in the middle of the picture, where Buddy Guy’s Hogman leads the band, stomping out the tunes. Surrounds engage frequently conveying atmospheric effects and wildlife. LFE’s blend seamlessly with the mains, providing a rich and deep impact. The soundtrack is clear, clean and free of any hiss or debris.

    Bonus Material: unfortunately, we only get the theatrical trailer. I would have killed to have a director’s commentary with Tavernier and, more importantly, Burke, but that didn’t materialize. Burke’s message board has mentioned some scenes that were apparently cut from the movie and I don’t understand why they didn’t make it over to the video release. This disc is also a straight-to-video release, getting a small release in New Iberia and at least one of the film festivals last year.

    If In the Electric Mist does nothing else, I hope it entices you to seek out Burke’s Robicheaux books and get the full experience of the character and his world. This film adaption is well done, remaining faithful to the source. The disc provides us with a fine AV presentation, it just lacks any extras.
  2. Brad Vautrinot

    Brad Vautrinot Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 16, 1999
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    Thanks for the excellent review, Pat. I have this on pre-order and can't wait for it. I'm a huge fan of James Lee Burke and have read all of them including his Bitterroot series with Billie Bob Holland. He's a wonderful writer and I was always enthralled by his vivid descriptions of things around him that you mentioned. He has a new book coming in July - with a new protagonist - entitled In the Valley of Ancient Rain Gods.

    I have to say I'm in complete agreement with your views of Heaven's Prisoners.

    It;s a shame that the deleted scenes and some commentaries were excluded.


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