As far as dumb ideas go, impersonating your dead junkie roommate to collect a mysterious inheritance from a shady lawyer is pretty high up there. But the protagonists of the moronic thriller Rushlights don’t seem to see anything wrong with it, at least not until they are in way over their heads and being targeted for murder by at least two separate parties. Young lovers Billy (Josh Henderson of TNT’s Dallas) and Sarah (Haley Webb) are already on the run when they discover that Sarah’s roommate Ellen, dead of a heroin overdose, was set to inherit millions from an uncle she barely knew.
Thanks to the convenient coincidence that Sarah and Ellen look strikingly similar (just the first credibility-straining contrivance in a movie full of them), Billy and Sarah head to a small Texas town and claim Ellen’s inheritance for themselves. Naturally, this does not work out as well as planned: The slimy lawyer (Aidan Quinn) in charge of the estate informs them that a potential challenger has arisen to Ellen’s claim; and the lawyer’s brother, the local sheriff (Beau Bridges), immediately suspects Billy and Sarah of criminal activity for reasons that aren’t quite clear.
Maybe it’s because Henderson and Webb infuse their characters with a general shiftiness but no other discernible traits. Henderson in particular is completely flat as the supposedly crafty Billy, and Webb is only slightly more engaging. Veterans Bridges and Quinn give livelier performances, but even they can only do so much with the one-dimensional characters, forced to respond with strong emotion to a series of increasingly inane plot twists. The worst offender in the cast is Crispian Belfrage, who overacts wildly as a nasty drug dealer who trails Billy and Sarah from California to Texas, but at least his performance is memorable.
That’s more than you can say for the rest of the movie, which drifts glumly from one ludicrous narrative development to the next, culminating in a stunningly idiotic ending. Director and co-writer Antoni Stutz paces the story awkwardly, frequently layering dialogue from one scene over the visuals of another, as if he forgot to shoot some important exposition and had to hastily add it in later. The camera lingers on bits of scenery seemingly at random, combining with the overbearing score to indicate ominous foreboding when none is warranted.
Allegedly based on a true story, Rushlights features characters behaving in ways that are only believable as a means to get to the next “shocking” development. The hard-boiled tone, designed to convey toughness, comes off as silly and dated, but Stutz leaves no room for humor, either. The sight of Sarah dragging a dead body down the stairs of a motel in full view of anyone who might be around should be good for at least a deadpan laugh, but like everything else in the movie, it’s played completely straight. Rushlights desperately wants to be taken seriously, but with material this dim-witted, it doesn’t even have a chance.