RUSH (1991)

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Christopher

I had never heard of Rush before but I think it was after we watched Narc that Elizabeth recommended we watch it. I’m really glad we did ‘cause I thought this movie was great and grabbed me from the beginning.

I found this movie to be very smart. There is a story throughout but then, there kind of isn’t. There is a love story going on but it’s based off unfortunate circumstances. I thought the acting was great and something I actually really enjoyed about this film was the art in the main character’s house. He has this one, painting I believe, of two naked women siting down staring at each other. Both voluptuous and possibly twins. It was beautiful; I wonder where that piece is now.

In high school I was super into drug movies (i. e. Spun, Fear and Loathing, Blow) and I really wish I had seen this back then. I think some people would find this film boring but I think it’s a film that you watch and get more out of it by thinking of it after.

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

There was a trailer for Rush on a VHS we had when I was a kid, though I have no idea which one. But I always loved the trailer; I thought this movie looked so crazy and sad and romantic even though I had absolutely no idea what it was about (either the trailer didn’t really tell you or I was too young). I also remember the bearded guy (Jason Patric) being hugely fat, which was never the case, so who knows what that’s about. But anyway, I always wanted to see Rush even though it looked a little scary. When I first moved to Austin and could finally afford to give myself cable I got IFC and they played Rush the first weekend I had it. So I finally watched it and had no idea what to expect. And I loved it.

Watching movies about relationships now are a lot different for me than they were a few years ago. I understood everything but it wasn’t until I met Chris that I could really understand what these relationships meant and how one person can really be everything to you. So when I first saw Rush, their relationship made sense but not nearly as much sense as it did this time around.

What’s also crazy is that Rush is based on a true story (and follows the true story to a T up to a certain point) but they never really tell you that. It seems like so many movies rely on the “based on a true story” thing so much that it was interesting that Rush didn’t. And what’s extra crazy is that the real story took place in Tyler, Texas, where my grandmother lives and the last place I would expect a crazy undercover cop drug story to unfold.

So Patric plays Jim, a longtime undercover narcotics cop. He’s told by his boss, Dodd (Sam Elliott) that he needs a partner and he picks Kristen (Jennifer Jason Leigh) out of a group of new recruits. What I liked is that when Jim picks Kristen, he doesn’t really test her – like mess with her or anything to see how she would react. Instead he immediately takes her under his wing and is completely honest and straightforward with her. He emphasizes that in the undercover situations they’re going to be in, they will be all they have. In one scene I particularly like, Jim and Kristen are practicing shooting guns and Jim asks if her application was true when she said she only smoked a couple of joints in college. Her answer to him is very interview-y, like she was trying to give the “correct” answer and not reveal too much. Jim catches that and tells her that “It’s just us,” (they’re also literally in the middle of nowhere) and he needs her to be honest with him, that this is about them, not about the job. I just thought that was interesting.

Jim also has to sort of train Kristen; as undercover cops there are certain things they just can’t do and things that they must do. Smoking joints, snorting a tiny bit of cocaine to test it at a drug buy, that’s all okay. But they don’t shoot up, not really. Instead Jim brings his “own shit” with him, which is liquefied baby laxative that he shoots up instead when he needs to look like he’s doing heroin. Their main assignment is to nail Will Gaines, the owner of a popular bar where everyone seems to go to make drug deals. Jim and Kristen’s bosses are convinced that Gaines is a drug dealer (and “pornographer” which I think may have had a different meaning in 1970s Tyler, Texas than it does now) and they want them to catch him in the act, along with anyone else they get drugs from along the way. So basically Jim and Kristen get money from the police, they buy tons of drugs everyday, pack them up and label them as evidence and turn them over.

At one buy, though, the dealer will not let them leave until they both shoot up the heroin they’re buying. Kristen watches terrified as Jim shoots up and reacts immediately (it’s like someone hit him over the head), and they both try to get Kristen out of having to do it. But the dealer is pointing a gun at them, so without too much hesitation Jim sets everything up for Kristen; he wraps up her arm and gets the needle and shoots up for her while they both just stare into each other’s eyes. It’s a really super intense scene and also made me think that this must have been what that D.A.R.E. officer who visited my fifth grade class was talking about when he said we should never do drugs unless a gun is pointed at us.

So Jim and Kristen are pretty much hooked from that point on. The morning after they buy the heroin they both talk about how they liked the feeling it gave them. They each start sampling from the evidence little by little, semi-hiding it from each other. At this point, they’re also in love. It’s not exactly the healthiest foundation for a relationship, but it’s also easy to see how it’s practically unavoidable; in public they act like a couple to buy drugs, they live together, and their lives essentially depend on each other. Plus they’re both good looking.

But the deeper undercover they go, the deeper shit they get themselves into. They become more and more addicted and at one point when Jim is going through a hellish withdrawal and Kristen goes to Dodd for help, and he tells her that the case is very important and they can just take a few days off. He’s telling her this while her partner is practically dying of withdrawal caused by their police assignment, so you can imagine that felt pretty cold. Kristen and Jim meet with Dodd and Dodd’s boss, Nettle, to figure out a game plan moving forward. Kristen and Jim are convinced that Gaines isn’t selling drugs because they can’t even get remotely close to him selling drugs or really doing anything illegal. Despite that fact and the fact that they are desperate to get out of the job, they’re told the investigation has to continue until they get Gaines. Kristen asks if they’re suggesting they plant evidence and Nettle tells her that they need to do whatever they need to do to get the job done. So on one hand, Jim and Kristen have to get out of this situation that could easily kill them one way or another. But on the other hand, the only way to do that is to plant and falsify evidence. The pressure and their addictions turn out to be too much to keep going, so they plant the evidence.

Jim and Kristen are commended for their work and bravery and are turned into local celebrities, all the while knowing they lied. And it seems like they may get away with it, maybe, until a shotgun barrel is pointed at Kristen’s face as she sleeps on the couch of the mobile home she’s now sharing with Jim. She pushes the barrel away and Jim is shot in the thigh as the shooter runs away without anyone seeing him. The rest of the scene is just miserable and heartbreaking; Kristen runs to a neighbor for help who turns her away but tells her that they’ve called the police. So Kristen has no real choice but to run back to the trailer and cradle Jim’s head in her hands as he dies. She’s hysterical as she holds him, crying and screaming, and you can tell how heartbroken and terrified she is.

After Jim’s death, Kristen quits the police force but can’t bring herself to testify against Gaines at his trial, leading all of the lies to and coercion to come out. In the very end, Gaines is murdered by someone hiding in his car with a shotgun, and though we never see who it is I think we’re supposed to assume it’s Kristen, just as we’re probably supposed to assume it was Gaines who killed Jim.

Eric Clapton did all the music for Rush (which sometimes does sound a little cheesy) and there’s a scene after Jim’s death where Kristen is testifying to someone about the case wearing all black, no makeup, and tears in her eyes. The scene sort of melts into another as Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” starts and we see Kristen running down the beach. It sounds like it’s a potentially corny scene, but it’s so beautiful and if “Tears in Heaven” doesn’t at least choke you up a little then you might be a psychopath.

I really think Rush is just crazy and beautiful. It’s insanely stressful and even though I think it’s always in the back of your mind that this is not going to end well for at least one of our heroes, in the end the story is really devastating for pretty much all concerned. In a big way this puts cops in a terrible light, but in a less obvious way it also shows the extreme sacrifice and hardships cops will put themselves through because they think it’s the right thing to do, even if in the end it was really for nothing.

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