Monday, February 27, 2017

Cut to the Chase: Shreveport Noir

It is a really bad idea to run up gambling debts with a gangster simply known as “The Man.” It is a particularly bad idea to do so in Louisiana, where a lot of the rules do not apply so much. Of course, a lowlife like Max Chase specializes in really bad decisions. He assumed his sister, an assistant district attorney would protect him from consequences, but he will have to save her instead when she disappears under mysterious circumstances in Blayne Weaver’s Cut to the Chase (trailer here), which screens tomorrow in New York and next Monday in Los Angeles.

After an ill-advised double-or-nothing bet, Chase now has a week to pay The Man $3,000—or else. Yet, he is not even trying to raise the money or get out of town. He just carries on with his degenerate life style. Unfortunately, he misses the frantic calls from his frantic sister Isobel during his drunken debauchery.

It turns out Izzy Chase had an abusive ex-boyfriend in her private life and had just been assigned to lead the DA’s case against The Man in her professional life, so there is no shortage of people Chase can get mad at. Thanks to the spooked DA (who was also seeing Isobel on the side), Chase tracks down Nola Barnes, the star witness against The Man to forge an alliance of convenience. Unfortunately, Chase is getting played left and right, but he is still dangerous in a bull in a china shop kind of way.

The most important thing to take into consideration regarding Cut is Lance Henriksen, The Man himself, plays The Man. Knowing Henriksen is on-board guarantees the film a solid baseline of genre entertainment. As his own lead, Weaver is certainly willing to act sad and disreputable, perhaps succeeding too well. Lyndie Greenwood also shows some impressive fierceness as Barnes. Frankly, the entire film is well cast. The problem is the narrative often feels very small time.

When watching Cut, it is hard not to think of the recent tragic death of Bill Paxton, who made a specialty of playing colorfully flawed characters in Southern noirs like this. Weaver is no Paxton, but he is not bad, while Henriksen reliably does his thing, being The Man. Darkly diverting but not exactly essential, Cut to the Chase screens tomorrow (2/28) in New York, at the AMC Loews 19thStreet.