No longer a respected cop, Bill (writer/director Dan Eberle) spends his time alternately coughing up blood and having an affair with his landlord’s wife, Sara (Alexandra Mingione). His somewhat pathetic routine is interrupted, however, when a former colleague, Gunther (Beau Allulli), offers him a job. The illegitimate daughter of councilman John Lord (James Alba), Jessica (Jillaine Gill), is being stalked, and the stalker is becoming increasingly bold. With the police of no use, interested in more pressing criminal activity, Bill is the best option left. Reluctantly, and due to financial need, Bill takes on the gig of investigating the stalker, and protecting the councilman’s daughter.
What Bill finds is a woman who has no interest in his help. Stripper Jessica would rather deal with the problem herself, until it turns out that she and her boyfriend Duane (Joe Stipek) are in over their heads in other ways. In the case, Bill sees more than an opportunity for financial gain, but personal redemption, and potentially salvation for the young couple before they walk too far down the wrong path.
Dan Eberle’s Cut to Black is a black and white noir that often feels reminiscent of Tony Scott’s Man on Fire, but without the flash and overly stylistic editing. Instead, like Scott’s movie, we have a haunted hero whose sense of honor often far surpasses that of those supposedly more honorable around him.
Bill is an emotional lost soul, playing out the cards he’s been dealt as his time runs out. When he attaches to Jessica’s case, it becomes less about solving a mystery than it does about making sure she and Duane are safe long after he’s gone. It’s an unexpected attachment for the damaged and seemingly aloof man, one no one else in the film sees coming either.
For the audience, though, the mystery is sufficiently tangled as different motivations come to the fore. Since no one except his closest allies even know he has a daughter, councilman Lord is a powerful man with a lot to lose in a scandal, and there’s more going on here than is immediately apparent. Bill’s strength is that he doesn’t care about any of these side concerns or motivations, only in investigating, and removing, the stalker threat before it is too late.
And the film’s stylistic choice, going with the black and white, mirrors that matter-of-fact way of working. Save for a few sequences at the strip club involving more creative edits, the film is mostly as straightforward and simple as the main character. The composition of the frame knows to play up the battered nature of Bill’s soul just as his face slowly reflects the damage he’ll take over the tale (a noir staple, the hero getting his fair share of abuse). It all comes together to make a complete picture with few cracks.
Overall, I found Cut to Black to be an exceptional film. Even as it plays with conventions we all know, thus lending a predictability to many a narrative twist and turn, it doesn’t matter, because it does such a great job in its presentation. Its familiar elements are rendered in noteworthy fashion, and the film stands as a strong example of the noir and mystery genres it plays in.
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