Rushlights: Film Review

Rushlights Poster Art - P 2013

Rushlights Poster Art - P 2013

Neo-noir suffers from tone-deaf performances and a script full of holes.

Josh Henderson and Haley Webb try to con their way into a vast inheritance.

Two lovers try to score an inheritance that doesn't belong to them in Antoni Stutz's Rushlights, a Texas-set neo-noir whose smarts aren't nearly equal to its looks. Niche theatrical bookings may benefit somewhat from familiar names in the cast, including that of Dallas's younger J.R., Josh Henderson. But Henderson's leading turn proves to be one of the film's biggest liabilities, boding ill for his jump from the small to big screen.

Henderson plays Billy, who has just started dating Sarah (Haley Webb) when she calls him in a panic: Her roommate just died of an overdose. Bizarrely, the two go on the lam instead of calling the police (there's no reason to think they'd suspect Sarah in the death), winding up in a motel room and making a discovery: The roommate, who looked enough like Sarah to be her twin, was set to inherit millions from a dead uncle in Texas. Speaking as if he weren't the last person in the theater to connect the dots, Billy whispers "I got an idea."

The two roll into Texas to meet with estate lawyer Cameron Brogden (Aidan Quinn), who at first seems eager to transfer assets to the ersatz heiress. (That seven-figure check had better be made out to "Cash" instead of put in a dead girl's bank account.) But then rumors emerge of an illegitimate son, threatening to tie things up in court. Meanwhile, the roommate's drug dealer has trailed the couple from L.A., growling threats in a butterscotch English accent and making enough of a scene to rouse the town's already suspicious sheriff (Beau Bridges), who happens to be Cameron's brother.

Henderson's single-gear performance has Billy oozing defensive intensity long before it's warranted, even when the aggressive stance is clearly going to attract unwanted attention. In the actor's defense, the script matches him -- suggesting in one scene that the character is ready to shoot two police officers before even attempting to talk himself out of trouble.

Cinematographer Gregg Easterbrook understands the kind of overheated, shadowy intensity the film wants to achieve (composer Jeffrey Coulter lays it on much too thick), but the script is too full of laughable moments to let that atmosphere develop. Even Henderson's much more seasoned costars eventually find themselves flailing under its contrivances.

Production Company: Crosstown Films

Cast: Beau Bridges, Haley Webb, Josh Henderson, Aidan Quinn, Jordan Bridges, Lorna Raver

Director: Antoni Stutz

Screenwriters: Antoni Stutz, Ashley Scott Meyers

Producers: Antoni Stutz, Jeffrey Coulter, Gabriella Stollenwerck

Executive producers: Cecilia Miniucchi, Donald Zuckerman

Director of photography: Gregg Easterbrook

Production designer: Niko Vilaivongs

Music: Jeffrey Coulter

Costume designer: Sarah Trost

Editors: Michael Palmerio, Jane Abramowitz

R, 95 minutes