Lights Out

Lights Out
Lights Out
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Rule 1 and rule 2 say that you do not talk about Fight Club. However, can you make a movie about it? How about this version where it is in LA in 2024? To star in such an idea, one person comes to mind, namely Frank Grillo. For someone who has worked with almost all the action heroes of recent times (except Sylvester Stallone as we found out recently), the well-known New Yorker could be forgiven for wishing he had any of these guys for his latest B flick.

For lights out which opens to the public today a former soldier drifts into the life of underground fighting. Grillo is also joined by a few other known names from Hollywood here, but it isn’t enough to elevate Christian Sesma’s new feature above many other gritty action flicks.

Mekhi Phifer finds himself on the streets of Los Angeles one day. In Max, an ex-convict opportunist sees a chance to win money against these skilled fistfighters. Now that Max is out of jail, he will use his smarmy smooth talking ways to get Duffy to trust him and take him under his wing and introduce him to some illegal fight clubs – actually according to our recent interview with this film’s director they are real.

In Section 8 (2022), Christian Sesma directed Dolph Lundgren; so seeing him direct Lights Out script from Chad Law, Garry Charles and Brandon Burrows isn’t really shocking. Some of Sesma’s best moments come when Duffy is involved in those high stakes brawls while angry onlookers enshroud the scene.

Yet even more compelling are those sporadic flashbacks revealing Duffy as morally confused US military personnel abroad. These scenes are elegantly captured but there aren’t enough of them. That’s okay though as Sesma instead focuses on contemporary grittiness among down-and-out residents of L.A trying to survive in a world that has been unkind to them in the past few years. Duffy is too smart for Max’s sleaziness though it does lead him to meet Max’s sister Rachel (Erica Peoples stands out). Spending time with all of them brings Duffy and Rachel closer, although it would have been nice if a film as strong as this one had at least some form of eroticism—something which we surprisingly don’t get. This dynamic is instead played safe, and we’re left asking, “What could have been…”

However, there are others apart from Duffy, Max and Rachel so worry not. Still lots of Mulroney even after his wonderfully dark turn in Scream VI, Dermot Mulroney (Pretty Woman) keeps going down the sleazy path by playing Sage Parker his Lights Out crime boss who uses dirty police officers while recovering debts from those involved in his underground fighting – including Max of course. Murloney fits the role nicely and you may even smile occasionally because of the criminal banter between him and corrupt cop Ellen Ridgway (Jaime King). She is light years away from her Sin City look where she played twin sisters opposite Mickey Rourke’s storyline. Unfortunately, all these little elements within Lights Out seem so superficial.

This is because the movie’s plot twists seem too obvious and predictable. You don’t even have to be a film critic to see them coming. However, in this case, Sesma is trying to stretch it more than just being contented with its pulpiness as a B-movie. The portrayal of Grillo by Sesma in such war flashes is artistic, sometimes showing how Zack Snyder uses those flashy opening-credit sequences.

What if Lights Out focused on Duffy, Max, Rachel and cut half of the movie? Maybe this could have been well achieved through running a parallel storyline between past and present. For instance, given its title “Lights Out”, which has got puns all over it plus the whole trendy fight-club thing going on here these are some things that would make it good franchise material if done right…. Instead though one wouldn’t be shocked when some of the actors here come back later working on an entirely new hardboiled action flick with director Sesma. It’s easy to see that for all their sakes they probably had something going in putting this film together. He also happens to be quite entertaining so we’ll definitely want to check out whatever he does next.

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