Review by Mark Schwab
Writer/director E.B. Hughes takes a long night's journey into darkness in his indie noir thriller TURNABOUT, winner of various awards at the Miami Film Festival and Philadelphia Independent Film Festival. I can see why it is garnering accolades although it does have some flaws holding it back from true indie greatness.
George Katt and Waylon Payne star as Billy and Perry - old high school friends that haven't seen each other in fifteen years who suddenly find themselves thrown together during a night of debauchery. It begins when Billie attempts suicide, fails and decides to call Perry in a last-ditch effort for help. Perry decides against his better judgement to help him, probably because his marriage is going through a rough patch. When they meet they learn that their lives have obviously taken very different paths with Billy struggling to get by with petty crimes and drugs while Perry enjoys a relatively comfortable family life and his own eyeglass-making business. However it doesn't take long before Billy gets an itch to drag his old friend down into his shady gutter of vices over the course of a long night.
There are a lot of positives with TURNABOUT - front and center being Chase Bowman's cinematography. Bowman is a master of lighting and composition perfectly capturing the sleazy proceedings in an original way. You could have no interest in Hughes' plot and still be interested in what is happening on screen - the lensing and lighting is really that good. In fact, for a feature that reportedly cost under 100K it's downright astonishing. I've seen multi-million dollar films that don't look half as good as this.
You can also find gritty and committed performances throughout - Katt and Payne have solid chemistry and play off each other well and all of the supporting performances are tight and effective especially the small role played by Peter Greene (THE USUAL SUSPECTS). For an indie film that managed to get a "name" for one night of shooting he is used superbly by Hughes. Greene projects true menace without ever going to crazy overacting land - it's a vivid and effective sequence.
For me, the weakest part of the film is the screenplay. Sure all of the dialogue works just fine but I wasn't surprised enough by the machinations of the plot. I was pretty sure I knew where this was all headed at about the 25-minute mark and I was pretty much correct by the end credits. Considering I'm a pretty dim bulb when it comes to predicting plot twists, that means most of you will probably see what's coming early on. Another issue is despite the 80-minute runtime (and that includes credits), certain sequences felt padded and stretched out to make that all-important feature length runtime.
However, when a feature film is this expertly put-together at all levels it makes a thin script much easier to keep you interested. E.B. Hughes is a fine filmmaker who knows exactly who to surround himself with to make a polished film. He's going places for sure. I just hope major screenwriters get their work into his capable hands - based on TURNABOUT, I guarantee you Hughes can and will deliver.