In this film about murder, the last 10 minutes are enough to kill me.

James Plath's picture

Indie films used to be exclusively quirky dramas or dramedies, but something happened over the past who-knows-how-many years to change all that. Small studios and micro-budget filmmakers have turned to genre as a way of making their passion pay, and the most popular are crime thrillers and horror.

I don’t know the budget for “Rushlights” (2013), but you can tell the film stock wasn’t the most expensive for this particular crime thriller, and there are plenty of shortcut shots—like angled close-ups of a spinning wheel on a car to indicate movement.

This is Antoni Stutz’s second film, and he co-wrote the screenplay as well. How he got Beau Bridges and Aidan Quinn to climb onboard must be a story in itself, but it’s a darned good thing that he did. The seasoned actors bring their A game to this B movie—something desperately needed because stars Josh Henderson (TV’s “Dallas”) and Haley Webb (TV’s “Teen Wolf”) are fairly new to feature films and tend to overact at times. In love scenes especially the two go so overboard it starts to feel like a porno, though no flesh is shown. Such moments aside, Henderson and Webb are still good enough to make you buy into their characters.

The film itself is interesting because as a crime thriller it also seems to have one foot in horror. A good many scenes derive tension from situations that you typically see in a slasher film, even though it also has one foot in film noir.

As a writer, Stutz and co-conspirator Ashley Scott Meyers manage to snake in twist after twist, and they both surprise and make sense until you get to the final 10 minutes. Then you begin to think that the two couldn’t decide how to end the film, and the most unbelievable (which, by the way, is code for “ridiculous”) sequence comes near the end. It makes about as much sense as a broiled Twinkie.

But darn it, the twists and turns up until those last 10 minutes make for a pretty decent ride. Just when you think you have it figured out, something happens to prove you wrong.

Webb plays Sarah, who waits tables and has a fling with customer Billy (Henderson), then calls him when she freaks out after her roommate ends up dead in the second sequence of a drug overdose. Without spoiling too much—and a film like this depends upon surprise—let me just say that this L.A. “couple” goes to the tiny town of Tremo, Texas to pull off a scam, but they run into the local sheriff (Bridges) and his lawyer brother (Quinn), and a past that follows them even to that tiny Texas town.

In this film about murder, the last 10 minutes are enough to kill me.  Others will be more forgiving, but I know ridiculous when I see it—cats in costumes, football players in tutus . . . me in a swimsuit. There are just a few bad twists too many in this crime thriller. But darn it, the rest of the movie came SO CLOSE!

“Rushlights” is rated R for violence, language, sexuality and drug use. Not necessarily in that order.

As I said, the film stock looks inexpensive, lacking a sharpness and crispness both in the level of detail and in the coloration. It’s presented in a letterboxed 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The sound mix could certainly be better, as surround speakers in this English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix seem off-kilter, offering louder sounds than you’d expect, and ones that ultimately cause more distraction than they add to the overall ambience. Directional sound is also suspect at times, again because it seems overly loud given the circumstances.

Though no bonus features are listed on the cover, there’s a four-minute “making of” feature that’s pretty standard, offering the usual mix of clips, backstage footage and interviews. Given the length and focus it could well have been a pre-release promo.

Bottom line:
“Rushlights” is a roller coaster ride for movie lovers. You start out thinking it’s cheesy, then the film picks up speed and credibility, the twists start to hook you, then the cheesiness comes back, and the ending starts to make sense . . . until the filmmakers tack on a few more. In the end, is it a ride you’re glad to have taken? Yeah, I think so, even though the film is still deeply flawed.


Film Value