Jason Patric has had an odd career over the past 25 years or so. He's been in some very successful movies, but it's rare you see him in more than a movie or two every couple of years. Whatever his reasoning, the movies he has made have generally been of a higher quality. They are rarely big blockbuster flicks, leaning more toward smaller, hard-hitting indie films, but I've yet to see one where Patric wasn't delivering a great performance. So even though I didn't really like 1991's Rush, I'll recommend it for his performance and one from his female co-star alone.
There has been a whole subculture of movies since the 1970s (and before I guess if you count gems like Reefer Madness) about drugs, junkies, and the world they live in. Almost by nature, these movies are going to be difficult to watch, more so depending on how graphic the depiction of drug use is. Rush is certainly uncomfortable to watch at times, and at a certain point it stops being interesting to watch because of that problem. It's a very voyeuristic look at two people struggling with addiction. There's very little entertaining about that because by a certain point you know where this story is going. There will be no happy ending here.
An undercover cop in a small Texas town, Jim Raynor (Patric) needs a new partner. He chooses Kristen Cates (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a young cop fresh out of the academy. Working undercover, the two officers will try to take down part of the local drug culture from the users and the low-level dealers all the way up the ladder to the suppliers and local kingpins that rule things. But to be convincing in their job, Jim and Kristen have to completely adapt the lifestyle they're trying to take down, meaning to save their own lives they often enough not only have to buy some heavy duty drugs but also use the drugs. Their only link to the police force, Captain Dodd (Sam Elliott), knows they have to do their job, but they tread that fine line and with pressure from above, the demands become harsher and harsher, pushing the two further down a road that it will be nearly impossible to come back from.
To the movie's credit, it feels authentic as Jim and Kristen are immersed in this seedy underworld of drug dealers and users. It feels like a 'Dummy's Guide to the Drug World' as we see all these people caught up in drug use, but more than that, the techniques, the never-ending paranoia, the relationships that develop, a little bit of everything. But after being introduced to all these different elements, Rush hits a roadblock. It becomes repetitive to the point where I found myself fast-forwarding through scenes. At least 15-20 minute probably could have been cut from the 120-minute running time because anyone with a couple of functioning brain cells can figure out how this story is going to end. That said, the final scene does deliver a great final twist so stick with the story all the way until the end.
Why I'll still give this a modest recommendation is Patric and Leigh. As veteran cop Jim Raynor, Patric gives his character this cool edge where he knows how tenuous his job is because if he pushes too far, he won't be a cop anymore, just a junkie. He of course, does push himself too far and ends up almost killing himself. It is alarming and disturbing to watch a character completely fall apart in front of you, realizing what he is doing all the time. It's a great part for Patric who with Leigh carry the movie. As young Kristen, Leigh still has an innocence about her, a naivete about what she's gotten herself into. Just on physical appearance alone, it is startling to watch both actors wither away as the drugs take over their lives and bodies.
Two supporting parts stand out including one more unique bit of casting. Elliott as Dodd makes the most of his part as the one remaining link Jim and Kristen have with the police force. His presence alone is a reassurance in his few scenes, especially because he used to do what Jim did and suffered through his own addictions and demons only to move on to a better life with a wife and kids. Dodd must balance out pressure from above with concerns over what his two officers have gotten themselves into. The other part is Max Perlich as Walker, a low-level drug dealer who is tied in with everyone and can supply anything given enough time. In the lonely world presented, Walker is just looking for a friend and finds it in Kristen, not knowing what trouble he's gotten himself into. Also look for Gregg Allman (of the Allman Brothers Band) as Gaines, the local kingpin who runs all the booze, drugs and sex in the area.
The movie itself is well-made, well-told and gritty enough to the point where it feels like a documentary at times. I wasn't expecting a pleasant, happy go lucky look at the drug culture in a small Texas town, but Rush passed my expectations of a dark, dreary, downright depressing look at two professionals pushing their own limits. It's hard to root for these two characters, and then the movie as a whole. Could have been a better finished product, but worth at least one watch for the quality acting.
Rush <---trailer (1991): ** 1/2 /****