Familiar film-noir tropes are lovingly rehashed to good effect in Dan Eberle’s gritty drama about a disgraced former cop turned private investigator who seeks moral redemption in a sordid case. Shot in evocative black and white and featuring the sort of complex, Raymond Chandler-style plotting endemic to the genre, Cut to Black will appeal most to ardent fans of the 1940’s era films that have so often been paid tribute in such modern-day efforts as Chinatown. The film recently made its world premiere as the closing night attraction of the Brooklyn Film Festival.
Director/screenwriter Eberle — who’s previously received kudos on the festival circuit for such efforts as JailCity and Prayer to a Vengeful God — plays the central role of Bill Ivers, a former NYPD detective who’s clearly fallen on hard times. Deep in debt, drinking hard, carrying on a risky affair with his landlord’s wife and suffering from recurring nosebleeds that signal a potentially fatal illness, he’s hardly in a position to turn down the lucrative payday offered by his former mentor, a wealthy politician (James Alba) trying to help the daughter (Jillaine Gill), from whom he’s been long estranged.
Since she’s a sexy stripper being victimized by a stalker, there are plenty of opportunities for nudity, as Ivers, checking out her act at The Confessional, the club where she works, finds himself embroiled in a complicated scenario involving her suspicious boyfriend (Joe Stipek) and various other shady types.
As is usual for these sorts of affairs, the hard-to-follow storyline is less integral to the proceedings than the moody atmosphere, well established by James Parsons’ crisp lensing; Bob Hart’s spooky electronic music score featuring touches of traditional jazz; the excellent use of various NYC locations and the hard-boiled, world-weary performance by the gravelly-voiced filmmaker, whose character seems on the verge of collapsing, both physically and emotionally, at any moment.
While Cut to Black doesn’t exactly break any new stylistic ground and often threatens to collapse from the weight of its inspirational archetypes, it’s a reasonably effective and entertaining homage to a genre that has seemingly lost none of its allure to modern filmmakers.
Brooklyn Film Festival (Insurgent Pictures)
Cast: Dan Eberle, Jillaine Gill, Beau Allulli, Joe Stipek, James Alba, Leah Rudick
Director/screenwriter: Dan Eberle
Producers: Danielle Primiceri, Dan Eberle, Per Anderson
Executive producers: Beau Allulli, Tim Guetterman
Director of photography: James Parsons
Editor: Timothy McGonagle
Composer: Bob Hart
Not rated, 90 min.