Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rush (1991)

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There’s something inherently intriguing about a drug addicted cop.  They’re constantly weaving back and forth between upholding the law and breaking the law, probably going against the law more though.  They either think they’re invincible or have a death wish by being so determined they can do their very dangerous job and be totally wired at the same time.  We’ve had some great cop turned junkie pictures like Bad Lieutenant (both of them), Narc and Leon: The Professional.  Now although this subject is completely disconcerting in real life, it’s 100% prime badass on screen.

We start with one long uncut shot of Gregg Allman (yea, that Gregg Allman) taking a walkthrough of his bar starting out at the second floor and eventually winding all the way downstairs, through a back gambling room, a front area with a live band and outside where Gregg speeds away in his Mercedes.  Right off the bat this is impressive filmmaking.  They even figured out how to turn it into a crane shot at the very end when the car drives off.  Most of the cinematography isn’t anything to write home about but every once in a while you get a really fuckin’ cool shot that stands out and the opening is one of them.

It’s kind of unfortunate that this opening doesn’t go anywhere though.  After Gregg tosses out a guy who snuck in the back seat we cut to the next day (presumably) where we’re introduced to Jim played by Jason Patric (Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Lost Boys).  He’s an undercover cop that recruits rookie Kristen (Jennifer Jason Leigh (Backdraft, Single White Female)) to infiltrate the drug filled underbelly of Texas.

Jim is cool as a cucumber with his all black outfit, long-ish hair and beard.  He’s sure of himself, seen it all and maybe even thrives on the danger of undercover work.  Kristen on the other hand doesn’t entirely know what she got herself into.  Since she’s new to the world of scumbaggery she hasn’t seen dick but insists that she can handle the assignment.  She’s pretty much an angel that gets sucked into the entire culture of drugs and is addicted to being scared that she doesn’t know what will happen next. 

Image result for rush 1991And these two proceed to do a ton of drugs, become completely hooked and have a hard time doing their job, particularly with turning in all the shit they buy.  They end up either keeping or cutting the evidence for themselves.  Jim and Kristen also fall in love which is expected.  I’m fine with this, It’s just that they fall for each other, and become addicted, almost instantly and that seemed rushed (pun intended?).  The filmmakers should’ve taken a little more time building up their relationship and increasing the drug usage and the hardness of the drug type.

But I will admit that the scene where Jim and Kristen do heroin for the first time is so fucking great.  They’re trying to score from this big black guy named Willie Red (Special K McCray (China Moon)).  He casually holds a gun in his hand all strung out insisting that they shoot up so he knows they’re cool and not cops.  Jim barely hesitates and goes ahead with the business.  Kristen tries to get out of it but it doesn’t play and has to go for the needle.  The biggest reason why this scene is so good is because Special K is phenomenal and actually kinda scary as a doped up dude who will definitely shoot you if you don’t do what he says.  He gets high off of watching others get their fix and that makes him one sick motherfucker.  And I love his description of the initial rush as “floating on a cloud of titties”.  Of course this is a big moment for our leads too.  And the seriousness is all the more pronounced because Jim demonstrates to Kristen earlier that if someone wants him to mainline heroin he’ll use baby aspirin instead which should fool most folks.  Not this time though as Red hands Jim a needle all ready to go.  Just tie off and you’re all set.

Another amazing scene is when a low level dealer confronts Jim about suspicions that he’s a cop.  It doesn’t take long for Jim to pull out his piece and snarl “I’ll drop this fuckin’ hammer on your ass so fast you’ll be dead before you got here”.  There isn’t a whole lot more conversation before that dealer becomes an informant. 

Jim doesn’t fuck around and that bluntness along with his tenacity really drives the movie and keeps the pacing up.  Kristen getting in deeper with the increased drug use and losing her innocence also keeps the story interesting and compelling.  And both Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh are very good in this.  They nail these parts with a ton of emotion and so much heartache.

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One thing to note is that this was directed by Lili Fini Zanuck, wife of mega producer Richard D. Zanuck (The Sugarland Express, Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, Road to Perdition, etc.).  This is the only movie she’s done.  She did a little TV after this but this is her baby and she did a great job with it.  It doesn’t feel like someone’s first time out and even bears a few of the traits that would accompany the indie film explosion a couple of years later like some of the cinematography, editing, a relatively small self-contained tale that focuses on character and, most importantly, damn good story telling.  I guess Lili didn’t care too much for the process though and that’s a shame because this is a strong debut.  At least we got this one.

What a cool little film guys.  There are so many wonderful and fascinating choices here like that Eric Clapton did the soundtrack (combined with the Gregg Allman thing Lili must be really into classic rock), this was based off a book of the same name written by a woman (Kim Wozencraft), Sam Elliot (Shakedown, Road House) and William Sadler (Hard to Kill, Die Hard 2) have supporting roles, and this was edited by Mark Warner who did Rocky III, Big Trouble in Little China and The Running Man.

The cop junkie subgenre is moderately small but what’s there tends to be something to check out.  And this is no exception.  I mean I don’t want to build it up too much, it’s not incredible.  It’s pretty similar to The Panicin Needle Park except that was a straight drug addiction picture with regular citizens that also get hooked on each other and not cops, and it’s a better movie overall.  But Rush certainly is a real good watch.  Shoot it, I mean see it.  

Jason Patric looks bad to the fucking bone here

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