I won’t belabor the point, but, being true to myself, I have to mention it: Hollywood tends to traffic every now and then in the type of potboiler RUSHLIGHT handily resembles, that being that the small American town secretly conceals an underbelly of shame, corruption, and deceit. In the minds of Tinseltown’s writers and directors, no one’s even half as noble as he seems, and they continue to find delight in exposing these seeds of dishonesty for all to see. As sad as it may be to admit, sometimes the small town cop is just the small town cop; sometimes the coffee shop waitress isn’t the town sleaze; and sometimes secrets long thought buried really aren’t all that interesting after all.
But RUSHLIGHTS wouldn’t work any other way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It tinkers with life in a small town in much the same way that afternoon soaps do, exploiting a tragedy by turning life as they knew it on its proverbial head to reveal the belly of the beast lurking in Anywhere, America.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Sarah (played by a comely Haley Webb) thinks she’s found “a keeper” when the customer she’s seen daily at her coffee counter – Billy (Josh Henderson) – finally musters the nerve to ask her out. After a whirlwind seven-day-romance (a title card tells me so), she calls him to her apartment in the middle of the night. Billy thinks he discovers that she’s accidentally killed herself by drug overdose, but he’s actually found her roommate, who happens to bear a startling resemblance. Uncertain of what to do, they escape with the dead girl’s possessions in tow; and, to their surprise, they find a letter detailing that the young woman was on the verge of receiving a seven-figure inheritance from a late uncle.
What’s a girl to do?
Well, if Hollywood’s penning the story, then that means that Sarah has to assume her dead roommate’s identity in order for the two to swindle a dead man out of his savings. If Antoni Stutz and Ashley Scott Meyers’s script (allegedly based on a true story) had stopped there, then RUSHLIGHTS could’ve been a contender, at least so far as the typical thriller goes. To my dismay, it didn’t stop there. Instead, it layered it on way too thick, incorporating a small-town conspiracy that involves double-crossing lawyers, officers of the law, grifters, sexual perversion, drug dealers, gay bashing, secret videotapes, real estate, and a tractor.
What? They couldn’t throw in a jay-walker for good measure?
And far too much of the plot relied heavily on happenstance for all of this to feel legitimate. Perhaps in Hollywood – where truth I’m told is stranger than fiction – all of this never seemed like overkill, but too much too fast put RUSHLIGHTS feeling more than a bit ‘rushed’ than it ever did en-light-ening. The editing is far too choppy throughout the piece that I can only imagine how many feet may’ve been left on the cutting room floor … or not!
Still, RUSHLIGHTS earns points with its talented cast – it’s the kind of chemistry that, despite a few misfired scenes, everyone showed up, hit their dastardly or nefarious marks quite well, and moved the story along. Beau Bridges tries too hard to chew scenery in his scenes, but Aiden Quinn – who I’ve always find likeable – turns in a tight performance as the noble lawyer who ain’t so noble after all. Leads Haley Webb and Josh Henderson do the best they can with even several of the script’s mildly convoluted developments, and I can’t help but wonder if they’d work so well with stronger material.
RUSHLIGHTS (2013) is produced by Rushlights, LLC. DVD distribution is being handled by Vertical Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds very solid; there was one sequence with the mike work inside a parked automobile did sound particularly ‘hollow,’ though it didn’t distract much from the dialogue. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that RUSHLIGHTS served as an Official Selection of the 2013 Dallas International Film Festival, the Newport Beach Int’l. Film Festival, and the 2012 Montreal International Film Festival. Lastly, there’s a brief (4 minute) featurette on the making-of the picture, but it essentially plays out more like an elongated theatrical trailer than it does anything deeply researched.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. RUSHLIGHTS saving grace is that it tries very hard to consistently strive for a relevant story to tell; the problem I had with it wasn’t so much in its execution but rather with writer/director Antoni Stutz’s propensity to amp up one major ‘reveal’ after another. There can be only so many hidden secrets in any picture before it becomes weighted down by its own premise, and I dare think he crossed that bridge too many times. Still, there’s a respectable undercurrent of danger to most of this, and it worked well enough for me to rank this one as a modest if not forgettable thriller.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Vertical Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of RUSHLIGHTS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.