Release Date: October 18, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Dan Eberle
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7/10
Dan Eberle’s Cut to Black plays out like the neo-noir flick I’ve been yearning for for years but haven’t seen up until now. Although its micro-budget knocks it down a few pegs, the tight script and great black and white visuals more than make up for its shortcomings.
The film is written, directed, and stars Eberle as Bill Ivers, a disgraced cop who reluctantly agrees to help a powerful councilman and former employer to track down a stalker targeting his daughter. To exacerbate things, Bill is terminally ill and realizes this will most likely be his last hurrah, so he decides to do some good before exiting this world. Of course, in true noir fashion, things spiral out of control and we’re taken on a roller coaster of lies, deceit, and betrayal.
The film is shot on black and white, hammering in the hard-boiled detective look, but has a layer of gloss to it that firmly plants it into modern day. While most of the framing and cinematography is serviceable, there are a few scenes that stand out as truly excellent. One scene involves a strip tease performed by the councilman’s daughter, played by Jillaine Gill, which looks incredible. It’s scenes like this that show the use of black and white wasn’t simply an afterthought added in post, but something Eberle was conscious of from the beginning.
While the performances range from eh to downright awful, the excellent script helps tremendously in making up for it. The dialogue is sharp, smart, and fast, which is reason enough to warrant a watch. It is unfortunate that the delivery of these great lines is often stilted by poor acting however.
With so many low budget crime films there tends to be a cheapness about the plot that makes everything feel very pedestrian and surface level. This isn’t the case with Cut to Black. The plot is complex, featuring a large cast of characters and the lack of an over-abundance of exposition forces the viewer to put the pieces together him or herself. We’re given pieces of Ivers’ past, but it’s never spelled out for us with some pointless conversation with a random character.
Cut to Black is a solid and surprisingly taut crime drama that easily surpasses any expectations. The clever dialogue and great black and white visuals elevate it well above the typical low budget thriller. For those looking for a decent detective story and aren’t easily turned off by mediocre performances this is one to check out.