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Rush (1991)
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by Jack Sommersby

"Compelling Subject Matter Given Its Due"
4 stars

No, it's not a "Drugstore Cowboy" but it still gets a lot right.

In the sometimes-miraculous Rush the young actor Jason Patric gives an electrifying performance as Jim Raynor, an undercover narcotics officer in southern Texas who finds himself knee-deep in addiction and other ramifications resulting from his sworn duty. Raynor's job is to buy drugs to then indict his suppliers, only it's not as by-the-book as it would seem - to prove that he's "cool" to the ones he's aiming to bust, he has to go through with injecting those drugs into his system so his quarry won't be suspicious, resulting in him helplessly becoming addicted to the very same drugs he's looking to eradicate. It's the ultimate Catch 22, and the movie superbly conveys the cross-purposes of a "narc" in that he or she is supposed to be lawful and law-breaking at the same time, with Patric's Raynor the ultimate scapegoat - his martinet of a chief doesn't care how the job is done as long as it's done so as to bolster his standing in the community for political reasons. Added to which, Raynor had been assigned a rookie cop, Kristen (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who wants to "make a difference" yet is naively obtuse to what exactly she's getting into. Raynor wants someone to back him up but also desires a bedmate yet isn't above manipulating Kristen for these purposes - his soul has practically been burned out, and he's long accepted his job is essentially useless, so why not a little carnal pleasure as mere compensation? The movie has been adapted from the knockout true-crime book by Kim Wozencraft, who was the Kristen character here, and it's kinda puzzling why Kristen has been made such a joyless square as opposed to the one in the book where she was a chance-taking adrenaline junkie- we're supposed to find her "identifiable," no doubt, but the characterization is so obvious and limited there's hardly a scene where we're glad she's around. Much more impressive is the always-welcome Sam Elliott as Raynor's understanding supervisor, and the excellent Max Perlich who Raynor blackmails into being a snitch on his longtime clients. This is the directorial debut of Lili Fini Zanuck, whose longtime-producer husband David gave us the blockbuster Jaws, and she's technically adept (the opening-credits sequence involving a long unbroken take is very applaudable), and had the good sense to employ one of the best cinematographers in the business, the Brit Kenneth McMillan, who gives the pollution-spewing Galveston oil-drilling locations plenty of hard-worn texture. And the period detail (the story takes place in the mid-'70s) is outstanding, too. Never for a second do you feel "Rush" was filmed on a sound stage, and it's this commitment to authenticity that helps put the movie over. Zanuck could've trimmed a few scenes, with the overall whole easily coming in at least fifteen minutes too long, but the movie is all of a piece and you certainly won't be bored. And anchoring everything is that stalwart Jason Patric who gave 1990's very best performance as the punch-drunk boxer in James Foley's extraordinary neo-noir After Dark, My Sweet. He's utterly mesmerizing in Rush, and if Kristen had been made a stronger character, whom Leigh could certainly have played, the proceedings would've been even stronger. But taken for all it has to offer, Rush is still highly recommendable.

A shame Zanuck hasn't directed since.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=33763&reviewer=327
originally posted: 09/12/20 09:55:59
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USA
  17-Jan-1992 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Lili Fini Zanuck

Written by
  Peter Dexter

Cast
  Jason Patric
  Jennifer Jason Leigh
  Sam Elliott
  Max Perlich
  Greg Allman



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