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2012 | 95 min | R | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 21 June, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Screenshots from Rushlights Blu-ray

Rushlights Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 20, 2013

It opens with a quote from an 18th century poem and ends with a display of stupidity right out of 2013. It’s difficult to make heads or tails out of the mystery “Rushlights,” and the filmmaking certainly doesn’t reward the patience required to remain on top of the screenplay’s network of twists and turns. Overstuffed with motivations in an attempt to keep viewers guessing until the insipid conclusion, “Rushlights” mangles its noir intentions by trying way too hard to inflate itself into something significant. It’s clear from the opening act that co-writer/director Antoni Stutz should play this material with more venom and less bluster, but there’s no stopping the effort when it slips into runaway boulder mode, squashing any chance for a sleek, effective puzzler.

In Los Angeles, Billy (Josh Henderson) has finally worked up the nerve to ask diner waitress Sarah (Haley Webb) out on a date. Igniting immediate chemistry, the pairing hits a major hurdle a week later when Sarah’s lookalike junkie roommate ends up dead, with Billy encouraging his love to leave the scene of the crime. Accidentally swiping the roomie’s belongings, Billy and Sarah discover the dead woman was set to inherent a fortune from her uncle in Texas. Following their greed, the duo is welcomed by lawyer Cameron (Aidan Quinn), who’s handling the estate, helping the process along so Sarah, now posing as the roommate, can collect her riches. Curious about the town visitors is Sheriff Brogden (Beau Bridges), Cameron’s brother, and a man unsure if the uncle truly died of natural causes. There’s also interest in the inheritance from Edward (Crispian Befrage), a sadistic drug dealer who demands Sarah pay off her roommate’s debt, restarting her heroin problem as a diabolical method of control.

“Rushlights” is patterned from a pulp novel, issuing a host of untrustworthy characters in impossibly unfortunate situations that escalate every ten minutes. There’s sex (Sarah and Billy don’t waste much time with small talk, groping each other right away) and violence, set against the brutal, ringing heat of small town Texas and its testy law enforcement types. It’s a parade of bad folks on the prowl for profit; normally, a promising cocktail of sin, especially for a low-budget production that has nothing to lose. The invitation is there to focus on Billy and Sarah’s con game, and how the town reacts to the newcomers and their assertive manner once a boatload of money enters the equation, building tension from suspicion and paranoia.

Unfortunately, Stutz doesn’t want to play “Rushlights” efficiently. The director imagines this world as a hornet’s nest of activity, finding the lead lovers inundated with trouble from all sides, gradually stripping away their initial confidence with the assumed identity plan. Blackmail, gun play, handwriting analysis, domestic violence, and murder quickly join the party, though there’s very little substance to support the additional headaches, shifting “Rushlights” into neutral on more than one occasion so the production can figure out its next move. The movie packs on much more than it can carry, with mystery elements featuring an unseen killer (though it doesn’t take much to deduce who the figure is) lackluster in execution, while acting is generally uninspired, bottoming out with Belfrage’s unhinged work as the persistent pusher. His lip-licking overacting is intolerable, in desperate need of directorial influence to turn an irritant into a credible threat.

“Rushlights” winds through its plot with minimal interest in building pace, preferring to let a few feeble turns of fate speak loud enough to capture attention. This permissive attitude doesn’t pay off with a corker of a movie, instead it just emphasizes the ridiculous, concluding with a twist-upon-twist climax that’s insulting. Stutz and co-writer Ashley Scott Meyers are so consumed with shocking the viewer that they forget to pour a basic foundation of resolution, futzing with character motivation until the final frames. It’s a lousy ending stapled to an underwhelming picture, leaving “Rushlights” more of a bungled card trick than a steamy, scary ride of intimidation.

Starring: Beau Bridges, Aidan Quinn, Josh Henderson, Haley Webb
Director: Antoni Stutz

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