IN THE ELECTRIC MIST. Image Entertainment, 2009. Direct to DVD. Tommy Lee Jones (Lt. Dave Robicheaux), John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard, Steenburgen, Macdonald, Justina Machado, Ned Beatty, Levon Helm (General John Bell Hood, Buddy Guy. Screenwriters: Jerzy Kromolowski & Mary Olson-Kromolowski, based on the novel In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke. Director: Bertrand Tavernier.

   Look at that cast, if you would. That’s quite an impressive ensemble for a movie that went straight to video. (It may have had one or two theatrical showings, but very few more, if any.) I will also tell you that this is probably the best adaptation of one of James Lee Burke’s novels about his long-time series character Lt. Dave Robicheaux of the New Iberia LA police department, that I can imagine.

   It’s absolutely beautifully photographed, too. So. What went wrong? Well, for one thing, the story’s too complicated, that of two cases in one, first, that of a murdered prostitute, and secondly, and of significantly less immediacy, the finding of the body of a black prisoner, still in chains, shot to death as he was trying to escape some 40 years before, and Dave saw it happen.

   It may be a case of following a book too closely. In all honesty, I’d stopped trying to follow the plot long before it ended. Nor is the rhythm exactly right. There are too many short scenes that can’t seem to muster the right amount of flow. Each scene is in miniature exactly right, but the pieces don’t fit together in a storytelling way. I will have to assume this makes sense, as I have been thinking this over and I have not come up with a better way to explain.

   Tommy Lee Jones is pitch perfect as Robicheaux, a world weary alcoholic prone to bursts of violence, a man who drinks only Dr Pepper, but when someone laces it with LSD, he begins to envision a troop of Confederate soldiers in the area, commanded by a straight- but somewhat elusive talking General John Bell Hood, played by an also remarkably effective non-actor by the name of Levon Helm, whose name I am sure all of you know as one of the founding members of The Band.

   An excellent a movie as I found this to be, and I have only begun to discuss many of the other things I liked about it, I can sympathize with the producers who had the job of trying to market it when the filming was over. I think it would have bombed in the movie theaters. I think it did all right on DVD and the various steaming services, though, and I’m glad I finally caught up with it.