`Promised Land’ courts controversy, doesn’t find it

Matt Damon, left, as a energy company land man and John Krasinski as an environmentalist in “Promised Land.”

Friday’s column, available on houstonchronicle.com:

“Promised Land” doesn’t live up to its promise.

The motion picture, which opens in Houston on Friday, stars Matt Damon as a natural gas company  landman buying up leases in rural Pennsylvania. It’s supposed to explore the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing.

Across the country, the shale drilling boom has pitted energy companies against environmentalists, often with landowners caught in the middle. The potential for conflict involves energy needs, national security and environmental issues.

“It’s clearly a part of the national dialogue,” said Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. “Hollywood and others have taken note. While ‘Promised Land’ is a fictional story with fictional characters, it’s still a wonderful topic.”

The oil industry has been wary of the film, in part because hydraulic fracturing didn’t fare too kindly in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Gasland.”