From the Archive: Rush

Reviewing films in a small, Central Wisconsin community led to some strange situations. It was always a bit of a crapshoot as to what would actually come to town, not just on opening weekend but at any point during its run. We spent a lot of time with our weekly radio show trying to figure out how to handle it when only one new release came to town, or other things that we were actively excited to cover dragged their way in well past the point when the national media was covering them. Given that, I’m sometimes amazed at the films that did make their way to us. For example, the largely forgotten drama Rush strikes me as something we would have usually have to travel to see, but I’m fairly certain I watched it right there in Stevens Point, and fairly early in its run, too. Certainly it was viewed as a potential Oscar contender at one point, but then people actually saw it. Even then, there were remaining pundits and advocates stumping for the worthiness of either of its two stars, so that might help explain how it expanded to our outpost.

Relentless in its grim outlook, immersed in the seediness of the 1970s drug culture of a Texas town, and thoroughly fatalistic, RUSH is probably not a film one would expect from the producers who brought us the Oscar gobbling release DRIVING MISS DAISY. But this story of two undercover narcotics officers who get hooked on the lifestyle they’re supposed to be faking is exactly what DAISY co-producer Lili Fini Zanuck chose for her directorial debut. Jason Patric plays an officer made hard by his time undercover. He needs a partner to help him on his lengthy, elaborate sting, which is apparently designed to eradicate all drug sales and use in the community he serves. He selected Jennifer Jason Leigh after watching her outrun several male officers in a race, though her impressive speed is assumedly not the only thing that catches his eye. Before long, the two of them are hooked on each other…and cocaine and heroin and all of the other drugs they have to take to convince the dealers that they’re not narcs. Give credit to Zanuck for not sugarcoating the lifestyle. Violence, bruises, paranoia, and needle-scarred arms are all on display, and the camera steadfastly refuses to look away. Unfortunately, the film also features a few easy answers and implausible circumstances. Though Jason Patric has to deal with his addiction in nerve-wracking fashion, apparently Jennifer Jason Leigh conquers hers simple by deciding not to do drugs after she scrubs away at unattractive heroin markings on her arm. It’s also a film that steadily loses steam over its second half. After examining the horrors of drug abuse, the film flounders in uncertainty over which direction to go in and exactly what to focus on: Should it focus on the relationship between the two officers? The attempt to capture the police department’s main target? The aftermath of the investigation? Or the corruption within the narcotics department? Instead of settling on a direction to take, the film give us small, insufficient samplings of each possibility and a completely unsatisfying ending. All things considered, it is quite appropriate that RUSH can be effectively compared to a drug trip: it’s attention-getting, it’s ugly, and it finally goes on for far too long.

1 and 1/2 stars.

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