Lights Out

Lights Out
Lights Out
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As per the first and second rules, “you do not talk about Fight Club.” But can you make a movie about it? What about a B-movie version set in LA 2024? Perhaps Frank Grillo should be a part of this. While Frank is a household name, born and raised in NYC who hasn’t worked with him in action film these days (except Sylvester Stallone, as we learned from our recent interview with him) but unfortunately none of those guys are in this new B-movie he’s doing.

Lights Out which hits theaters this week follows an ex-soldier drifting that becomes an underground fighter. Also co-starring here are some known Hollywood actors but the talent isn’t enough to make Christian Sesma’s new feature stand out among the other countless gritty action flicks available.

Mekhi Phifer meets on the streets of Los Angeles. Max, an ex-con opportunist sees a chance to win money in these skilled fist fighters. Now that he’s out of the joint, Max can use his shmoozing fast-talking antics to win over Duffy take him under his wing and introduce him to some underground fight clubs — which according to our recent interview with the director do actually exist IRL.

It’s not too surprising seeing Christian Sesma behind Lights Out as well after Section 8 (2022) with Dolph Lundgren so seeing Chad Law, Garry Charles, and Brandon Burrows’ script was snatched up by Sesma is far from shocking. Some of Sesma’s latest features include watching Duffy in action during high-stakes brawls while hotheaded spectators engulf the scene.

These occasional flashback moments showing us a morally conflicted Duffy overseas while serving in the US military were shot with grace but there just simply wasn’t enough of them. Oh well. Instead, we keep it present-day grittiness down-and-out residents trying to make it back into this world that seems to have turned its back on them years prior in LA with Duffy being too smart for following around sleazy Max but it does lead him to Max’s sister Rachel (a standout, Erica Peoples). We feel a spark between Duffy and Rachel as they all spend more time together and for a hard R-rated movie like this not to lean into any sort of eroticism here is just flat-out surprising. So instead let’s play it safe with this dynamic and ask ourselves “What could have been…”

But there’s more than just Duffy, Max, and Rachel so don’t worry. After his surprisingly dark turn in Scream VI, veteran actor Dermot Mulroney (Pretty Woman) continues to lean into sleaze with Sage Parker his Lights Out crime boss persona who works with dirty cops while collecting debts from those involved with his underground fight circles — including Max, of course. Mulroney looks the part and his crime-riddled banter with crooked cop Ellen Ridgway (Jaime King) may make you smirk now and then. King is light years away from her Sin City look where she played twin sisters in the Mickey Rourke storyline. But all these little elements of Lights Out leave us merely at surface level.

What makes it worse is that a lot of the twists and turns along the way feel too predictable. You don’t have to be a film snob to see them coming. That’s not always a bad thing; sometimes, a B-movie is just what a movie needs to be. It’s clear Sesma is reaching for something more instead of leaning into the pulpiness of it all. The way he films Grillo in those war flashbacks feels artistic, even down to how Zack Snyder introduces his characters in those flashy opening-credit sequences he’s known for.

What if Lights Out were stripped down to just Duffy, Max, and Rachel, and half the movie focused more on Duffy’s time overseas? A parallel storyline between past and present might’ve given it some weight. With a title like Lights Out (pun very much intended) and this trendy fight-club vibe it has going on, this could’ve been franchise material if done right. Instead, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of these actors reteamed with director Sesma for an entirely different, gritty action flick somewhere down the line. They had something good going on here. And Grillo is fun to watch, so we’ll tune in again next time.

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