Home Video Hovel: Rushlights, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary defines a rushlight as “a candle that consists of the pith of a rush dipped in grease.” What this has to do with the film Rushlights from director Antoni Stutz, I’ll never know. Inspired by true events, this modern Texan noir tells an all too familiar tale of drugs, guns, and deceit in the sleepy little hamlet of Tremo, Texas. Some performances rise above mediocrity, but most fall below it. The plot twists and turns into just another sweaty story of pride and peccadilloes.
Billy (Josh Henderson) and Sarah (Haley Webb) fall in lust after a clumsy turkey sandwich pickup line. She discovers her roommate Ellen dead from a drug overdose. Nearby is a letter revealing that Ellen is the heir to her uncle’s fortune in Tremo, Texas. In a coincidence of convenience, Sarah happens to look just like Ellen. Assuming her dead roommate’s identity, she drives with Billy to claim the cash from Cameron (Aidan Quinn), the family attorney. Little do they know, Cameron’s brother Bob (Beau Bridges) is the jumpy Sheriff of Tremo who does not take kindly to strangers.
Rushlights’ premise is strong. There is inherent suspense in Sarah assuming a false identity to claim a small fortune. Will she get caught? Is her moody boyfriend Billy going to blow her cover? Will he discover her dormant drug habit? Too bad screenwriters Antoni Stutz and Ashley Scott Meyers pepper the story with too many plot twists, characters, and murders to get you to care about them in the first place. When one familial plot twist was revealed, I thought it was clever. By the time the third one came around, I thought it was clumsy. There are so many morbid plot twists revealed late in the film that I could have sworn I was watching Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
By far the most interesting characters on display are the brothers Cameron and Bob. Aidan Quinn spouts a convincing Southern accent as the affable attorney. Beau Bridges has the time of his life as his suspicious brother. Their characters have a history and a personality. It really baffled me how the story instead chose to focus on the stale young couple as the leads. Josh Henderson and Haley Webb play things so grim and serious that it feels like they walked in from a different movie. When the plot revolves around them, I didn’t care. For lovers, they lack spunk and spark. Their two love scenes on display lack the trashy Verhoevian lust that could have made their relationship somewhat interesting.
Tired, daft, and just plain lifeless, Rushlights flickers to life when it stops trying so hard to slam you over the head with giant plot twist over giant plot twist. The ending is both anticlimactic and overstuffed. A turducken of a film, Rushlightstries to please lovers of noir, procedurals, and drama but bursts at its seams. The lone special feature on the DVD is a four minute featurette in which the cast summarize the plot of the movie in brief interviews. Likely an electronic press kit, it is a tale told by a series of idiots, signifying nothing.