A complex study of the power guilt has to destroy lives, “The Riff” tells the story of a talent manager who can’t bring himself to ditch a self-destructive client. But pic falls short in its portrayal of the jazz scene in New Orleans, and the secret revealed at the end isn’t worthy of the intricate treatment of the emotions under the microscope. Film has a chance for decent fest action.
Jazz manager Adam Goodnight (Cameron Smith, not cool enough to be believable) is devastated by his secret role in the drug overdose of former friend and musician Fish. He refuses to cut loose drug-addicted client Shoop (Antonio Fargas, strong) despite the urgings of his wife, Heather (Nia Peeples). Shoop, who also blames Goodnight for Fish’s death, is mired in guilt himself over the feeling that he’s wasted his talent. When Goodnight meets a gifted jazzman (Mister Jones, solid) who reminds him of a young Fish, it opens the door for Goodnight to finally overcome his guilt, drop Shoop and move on with his life. But Goodnight’s chance at redemption is blocked by the jealous Shoop, who tries his best to corrupt the newcomer. Opening credits sequence is terrif.