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Rush (1991)

Kino // R // July 14, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 30, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Kristen Cates (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has been through the training, and she's been briefed on her mission: join veteran cop Jim Raynor (Jason Patric) on an extended undercover drug sting operation. Whether or not she's prepared -- whether or not anyone could fully prepare -- is another story. Not only will the job require them to pose as junkies for months on end, with their captain Dodd (Sam Elliott) as their only link back to their real lives, but there's no question that they'll be forced to walk the walk in terms of heroin and cocaine, over and over again, as they work their way up the food chain to the number one target of police chief Nettle (Tony Frank) -- long-haired, cold-eyed Gaines (Gregg Allman), who Nettle swears is into both cocaine and pornography, and is undoubtedly the biggest and most secure game in town.

When it comes to portrayals on film, drug addiction requires an especially delicate touch to prevent the struggle from tipping over into melodrama. Rush is far from a mess, but director Lili Fini Zanuck (wife of Hollywood mega-producer Richard D. Zanuck) doesn't have that skill, especially given the story also throws cop drama and romance into the mix. Zanuck displays a certain amount of visual flair, and she's got a strong leading lady in Jennifer Jason Leigh, who scores some of the film's only earned moments of dramatic weight. Unfortunately, despite all the talented people she's got on board, she can't quite figure out how to get everyone on the same page...especially her leading man, Jason Patric.

Patric has never quite managed to break out of his "supporting actor" position -- he's probably still best known as Not Keanu Reeves in the misguided Speed sequel. Watching Rush, it's not hard to see why. Growling through the role with a perpetual sneer and an inclination to suddenly and abruptly make big physical choices, he's a walking portrait of parody. Everything cliched beat one would expect from a cop on the edge, struggling with addiction, is grabbed and thrown across the room in a display of how tough it is. Mid-movie, Kristen brings low-level dealer Walker (Max Perlich) to their house to convince him to be a snitch. First, Jim pulls his gun on Walker, pulling back the hammer and pressing it to his head (a time-tested tension-easing strategy). Moments later, Walker demands to speak to someone in charge, so Jim calmly calls Dodd on the phone. When Walker hesitates, Patric grabs the phone, nearly rips it out of the wall, stomps it over to the table, and slams it in front of Walker, smashing a coffee cup in the process, going from zero to sixty for no reason at all. Later, in a withdrawal montage, he grabs a table and shakes its contents onto the floor while turning beet red, as if exertion alone will prove dramatically satisfying.

Jennifer Jason Leigh fares a little better, going far more subtle and closed-off than Patric, but her character is anemic, a timid young woman who both gets in over her head yet manages to pull herself out without much drama. There's not much for Leigh to work with, other than to try and flatten herself out as much as possible to provide counterbalance for Patric's excessive, scenery-chewing performance. She and Patric have almost no chemistry to speak of, despite their unnecessary, burgeoning romance, and her best scenes are with Perlich's Walker, who has a crush on Cates. Of course, even that spirals into its own minor melodrama, in which Walker starts to get swallowed up by his guilt at outing his friends to the police. Walker's story takes time away from the development of Cates into a more interesting character, and the effort isn't enough to make the viewer very sympathetic toward Walker, rendering both efforts wasted.

After wallowing around in the depths of cold turkey rehab for a little while, the film suddenly switches gears, turning into an ethical conflict regarding Gaines. The chief is determined to get Gaines in jail, but the drug connections provided by Walker aren't enough to get them into Gaines' circle of trust. This might be more interesting or suspenseful if Gaines was a real character in the picture, but Allman is little more than a featured extra, often shown wheeling and dealing in the background but given very little to do. It's hard to fault Zanuck's ambition with the project, which is essentially three movies (maybe four) rolled into one narrative, but Rush is flat and frequently boring, failing to deliver the high its title promises.

The Blu-ray
Rush comes to Blu-ray with a recreation of the film's fairly ugly and somewhat incomprehensible poster artwork, which couldn't have made the movie an easy sell to the public back in 1991. The back cover is Kino Lorber's basic template for these things (a couple of photos accompanied by white text on black background), and there is no insert inside the Viva Elite Blu-ray case.

The Video and Audio
Like most of Kino Lorber's MGM releases, Rush has a pretty decent, if dated master, presented here in 1.85:1 1080p AVC. Detail is generally strong, no intrusive scrubbing appears to have been applied, and no compression artifacts spoil the film. Print damage is present and colors lack a certain pop, but anyone looking to upgrade MGM's thirteen-year-old DVD will not be disappointed by the image.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, on the other hand, is more mystifying. Jason Patric delivers most of his performance in a low-key whisper, but that doesn't explain why the audio on this disc is so quiet. I had to crank the sound up far past normal levels to be able to hear the dialogue, so much so that I suspect there is some sort of issue with the way the track has been encoded. English subtitles are also provided.

The Extras
The disc's few extras -- an audio commentary by director Lili Fini Zanuck, a featurette, an Eric Clapton music video, and the original theatrical trailer, are all ported from the 2002 DVD release of the movie.

Rush is a movie that struggles to bring its elements together and ultimately can't do it, thanks to the unwieldy collection of ingredients on hand and at least one loose-cannon performance that kind of sinks the entire ship. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is a nice upgrade from the DVD for fans of the film, but everyone else should rent it, at most.

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