2013 Newport Beach Film Festival Movie Review: Rushlights

72824_365940350182693_1848692328_nWhile I can appreciate first-time filmmakers Antoni Stutz’s attempt at a twisty modern noir, Rushlights reeks of rookie mistakes, both in terms of storytelling and production.  There is a good idea at the heart of the film.  Haley Webb (Final Destination) plays Sarah, a woman who finds herself in over her head after being convinced by her new boyfriend to impersonate her dead roommate in order to claim an inheritance.  Unfortunately, this already convoluted setup lends itself to an unneccessarily complicated plot filled with twists that don’t naturally flow out of the story.

To make matters worse, Stutz’s direction is amatuerish, to put it politely.  The editing is often confusing, crosscutting between elements of the story in a way that makes it very difficult to follow what is happening.  In addition, the soundwork is sloppy, with the sound effects often overpowering the dialogue.  There is very little in the mix that sounds natural.  The film especially suffers when a sound cue is supposed to provide a story point, such as when a character hotwires a car.  This person gets in the car, you hear some sort of quick electrical sounds and the character is driving off.  It took me a moment to realize what had just happened, and it is these sort of mistakes that can make the film feel like a chore to sit through.

I wish I could say that the acting made up for the rest of the problems, but everybody involved appears to be phoning in their parts.  There is no chemistry between the leads, and the random cutaways to their sex life does nothing to validate the relationship.  With a cast that includes Beau Bridges, Josh Henderson and Aidan Quinn, I was really expecting more out of this film.  Bridges fares the best, appearing to have some fun in his role as the town sherrif, but his work just isn’t enough to salvage the film.

The sort of film that features characters explaining the plot to each other as it’s happening, this exposition heavy mess of a story could have been improved with a rewrite or two.  The setting of the film, Tremo, TX, is an interesting location.  This dirty, backroad town feels like it could be home to any number of twisty characters and stories.  As the story evolves, things get more and more convoluted, but always without focus.  For a first time feature, it’s an admirable effort in need of focus.

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