Rebel//Rebel Image


By Alan Ng | May 16, 2023

Struggling with addiction, Jake Hughes, a former Hollywood star, hopes to revive his career in a small Midwestern town in writer-director Drew Harwood’s feature, Rebel//Rebel. Jake Hughes (Gareth Koorzen) knows his final opportunity at his tenuous grasp of stardom is a small indie production filming on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. Giving Jake his one last chance is his producer friend, AJ (Chris Taylor). On the car trip, AJ insists that Jake stays clean throughout the production.

As Jake checks into his motel, he is confronted with the not-so-subtle attempts to keep an eye on him. His handler, Leann (Katie Garland-Noble), has been posted outside his door to ensure he doesn’t go anywhere at night. His co-star, Cali (Heather Fay), is also there to make friends and keep him at bay.

Jake, though, has been using for a long time and knows all the tricks to dodge his handlers and find drugs in a town he doesn’t know. While on a “quick trip” to the local convenience store, Jake meets Brandon (Drew Harwood), who happens to have a drug supplier. The man invites Jake to a party that evening. Brandon is legit, and Jake now has all he needs to get through this shoot.

Rebel//Rebel has an interesting take on the drug addict’s story. It’s not the well-worn tale of the struggle with temptation, ruining everything, and finding salvation in rehab. Jake doesn’t precisely have a character arc. Instead, the film is much more about the addict and their relationship with those around them, whether long-time friends, passive acquaintances, or complete strangers. These relationships are tested along the way.

“…AJ insists that Jake stays clean throughout the production.”

Starting with AJ, he is the one who has put his professional reputation on the line for a friend. He’s the one responsible for getting him on set and sober. With Jake, it soon becomes a game of cat and mouse. Then there are Jake’s new professional relationships. Cali goes in with the best intentions and is confronted with the sober reality of Jake’s problem. Sandra (Sidney Edwards) is the motel’s housekeeper who strikes a friendship with Jake. Their relationship is one of admiration on both ends and tested throughout.

The most caustic interaction comes with his new best friend and drug dealer, Brandon. As the two become fast friends, Jake is led into dangerous encounters with Brandon’s drug associates. Also, their partying gets Jake into the most trouble with AJ and the other producers.

Koorzen gives a fascinating performance as the lead of Rebel//Rebel. Subtle is the best way to describe his acting. He maintains a somewhat even keel throughout the film, modulating just enough to hint at whether he’s heading to a dark place or, if he’s right there, ready to do his job. If you’ve ever known (yet not really) an addict, the man’s portrayal rings frightfully authentic. The fantastic supporting cast, chockful of new and emerging actors, assist him and the story wonderfully.

But, again, this character-driven drama is all about subtlety. Each character Jake interacts with represents a different person at various places in an addict’s life. Everyone is tested and pushed to their limits to see how they react. Some don’t need to be pushed very far, while others choose to go the distance with Jake without knowing the end game.

Addiction is one of those subjects that we all have experience with. Whether it is our personal struggle or a friend or family member’s struggles, it’s easy to see the situation from our point of view. With Rebel//Rebel, Harwood chooses to forgo the “Oscar-bait” extreme character arc of the addiction and instead grounds the story to a level that we all have faced on the human level. There are no lessons here, but one will find empathy for those suffering through the throes of addiction.

Rebel//Rebel (2023)

Directed and Written: Drew Harwood

Starring: Gareth Koorzen, Drew Harwood, Chris Taylor, Sidney Edwards, Heather Fay, Katie Garland-Noble, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Rebel//Rebel Image

"…Koorzen gives a fascinating performance..."

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