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Film Review: ‘Rushlights’

An initially rather slow-moving thriller that proves more watchable than particularly convincing or suspenseful.

Beau Bridges, Haley Webb, Josh Henderson, Aidan Quinn, Jordan Bridges, Lorna Rver, Joel McKinnon Miller, Crispian Belfrage, Philip Lenkowsky, Eileen Grubba, Terence Bernie Hines, Nestor Aaron Absera.

Neo-noir thriller “Rushlights” stars Haley Webb and Josh Henderson as a young couple on the lam who find themselves in worse trouble when they try to pass themselves on as heirs to a small-town Texas fortune. Initially rather slow-moving pic piles on the twists and violence in its final third, though the results are more watchable than particularly convincing or suspenseful. Antoni Stutz’s second feature opened on nine screens across the country June 21, but should do best in concurrent VOD and eventual cable sales.

In Los Angeles, Billy (Henderson) finally works up the nerve to ask waitress Sarah (Webb) out, but they’ve barely gotten to know each other when she calls him in a panic: Her roommate has had a fatal overdose. Rather inexplicably deciding to get the hell out of there rather than simply calling the police, they discover correspondence suggesting the late girl was about to inherit the estate of a recently deceased uncle she hadn’t seen since childhood. Since she and Sarah were conveniently near-lookalikes, Billy proposes that Sarah assume her identity so they can get whatever cash is to be had.

In Cremo, Texas, it turns out the uncle, who died in an apparent tractor accident, was worth a lot of money, according to estate lawyer Cameron (Aidan Quinn). But the get-rich-quick-and-split scheme immediately runs into some hurdles. An unusual rash of recent robberies has made the attorney’s good-old-boy sheriff brother, Bob (Beau Bridges), suspicious of any new arrivals. Then evidence arises that the uncle’s death might not have been so accidental after all, delaying any financial settlement.

Meanwhile, Sarah, who’s been hiding a drug problem herself, finds out that they’ve been trailed here by the dead girl’s sleazy dealer (an over-the-top Crispian Belfrage), who wants his share of the dough, and now. Discovery of an illegitimate birth, a kinky gay sex tape, several murders and other developments clutter the violent last reels.

The performances are solid enough, with Quinn getting the showiest character arc. But the chemistry between the leads isn’t so strong that we care deeply about their entwined fates — after all, they only just met — and there’s none of the grotesque humor that let such similar rural neo-noirs as “Red Rock West” pull off increasingly far-fetched scenarios. End result is polished but unmemorable. Tech and design contributions are well handled, though as the pic doesn’t really get into high gear for nearly an hour, Jeffrey Coulter’s original score should have shown more judicious restraint.

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Film Review: 'Rushlights'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, June 25, 2013. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 96 MIN.

Production: A Vertical Entertainment release of a Rushlights presentation. Produced by Jeffrey Coulter, Gabriella Stollenwerck, Antoni Stutz. Executive producers, Donald Zuckerman, Cecilia Miniucchi.

Crew: Directed by Antoni Stutz. Screenplay, Stutz, Ashley Scott Meyers. Camera (color, widescreen), Gregg Easterbrook; editors, Michael Palmerio, Jane Pia Abramowitz; music, Jeffrey Coulter; music supervisor, Gina Amador; production designer, Niko Vilaivongs; costume designer, Sarah Triost; art directors, Rodrigo Cabral, Aaron Bautista; set decorator, Siobhan O'Brien; sound (Dolby Digital), James Ridgley; sound designer, J.Brent Findley; assistant director, Bobbie Blyle; casting, Valerie McCaffrey.

With: Beau Bridges, Haley Webb, Josh Henderson, Aidan Quinn, Jordan Bridges, Lorna Rver, Joel McKinnon Miller, Crispian Belfrage, Philip Lenkowsky, Eileen Grubba, Terence Bernie Hines, Nestor Aaron Absera.

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