As “Rustin” demonstrates, the road to trite dramatic conclusions is usually paved with worn-out ideas. For their morality tale about an ethically conflicted hero’s dark night of the soul, writer Jon Lucas and helmer-star Rick Johnson aim for nuance but create little more than melodrama of the small-screen variety. Echoing portions of “Everybody’s All-American” and other movies about athletes past their prime, pic — which took home the audience award for a feature at Method Fest — is riddled with contrivances and mannered revelations out of creaky ’50s theater, making for some daunting third-and-long commercial prospects.
The placid existence of local football hero and Rustin, Ala., town sheriff Billy (Johnson) is suddenly undone with the appearance of 16-year-old Lee (Ashley Johnson), who claims he’s her dad, and a nighttime highway fender-bender involving the high school’s star football players that conniving team coach Trellingsby (Meat Loaf Aday) wants Billy to ignore. Matters go from bad to worse for Billy, until he realizes he’s become the town joke and is rejected by Lee. Aday brings shading to his portrayal of a man without scruples, but Johnson’s only notable feature is his resemblance to John Elway.