RUSHLIGHTS (Original and Director's Cut)
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

[Note: I realized that after I arranged to see this film to review it that it is a film that I saw and wrote about on its original release in 2013. The director is Antoni Stutz and this is his unrated director's cut of RUSHLIGHTS. In the interim the film has been re-edited, the sound has been improved, and in some cases scenes have been added. What I have to say below in my original review still holds true in my opinion. Stutz has taken the original twisty story and left it just as twisty. He took some of the rough edges and roughened them up even more. The new film is a little bloodier and a little stronger and a little more painful to watch, but I will stand by the same rating. Oh, and Wikipedia defines "rushlight" as "a type of candle or miniature torch formed by soaking the dried pith of the rush plant in fat or grease. For several centuries rushlights were a common source of artificial light for poor people throughout the British Isles."]

CAPSULE: RUSHLIGHTS claims to be based on a true story. I am not sure I believe it. Reality is just not that twisty. Billy and Sarah, two young lovers, each a little crooked, go to flyspeck Texas town Tremo so Sarah can impersonate her look-alike roommate. The roommate, recently deceased from an overdose, was to inherit a large sum of money. They stand to be very rich if Sarah can pull off the fraud. But their deception turns out to be just one more thing in Tremo that is not what it seems. With more engaging leads this film might be one that people would want to see a second time-- just to get straight all that happened. Co-written and directed by Antoni Stutz, the RUSHLIGHTS script keeps the viewer guessing. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

RUSHLIGHTS reminded me of early Coen Brothers. When the surprises start they just keep coming. Billy Brody (played by Josh Henderson) and Sarah (Haley Webb) are young and in love, and both have shady pasts. Sarah's roommate, who happens to look a lot like Sarah, dies of a drug overdose. Billy finds a letter to the roommate saying she is about to inherit a large sum of money from an uncle in Tremo, Texas. Billy and Sarah decide that Sarah looks enough like her roommate to impersonate the dead girl long enough collect the money. The two go to Tremo not knowing the rats' nest of complications their attempted deception was about to uncover. There they find themselves between their lawyer Cameron Brogden (Aidan Quinn) and Sheriff Robert Brogden, Jr. (Beau Bridges), two brothers who take opposite views of the young couple.

This film falls into the "Southern town with lots hidden under the surface" category. The lighting is distinctly film noir-ish with characters carved out of darkness. The photography is stylish and the film looks better than it feels. Before it is over there will be a lot of shooting, a lot of violence and even more blood.

The film would be intriguing but both of the main characters are plagued by flat acting. Josh Henderson is supposedly familiar from TV's revival of "Dallas", though I cannot say I have seen it. We see very little into their characters, perhaps intentionally from the script. Perhaps for reason top billing goes to Aiden Quinn and Beau Bridges who really are in supporting roles. Perhaps they have more name recognition than the younger actors.

It is not clear that some of the plot twists really contribute much to the story. They may be there for surprise value, but if they were not there it would be essentially the same story. A few are genuine twists. At times the film does not make a lot of sense. The script should have said something about how the discovery of the roommate's corpse back in L.A. is not going upset their plans. Holes in the plans stand there like the elephant in the room that nobody seems to think of.

There is some suspense in this film and I cannot deny there are surprises. With better actors this could have been a solid thriller. But if the main characters cannot make the viewer care what happens to them, the rest of the goings on does not matter much.

I rate RUSHLIGHTS a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper