Lights Out Review

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According to rule numbers 1 and 2, “you do not talk about Fight Club.” But can you make a movie about it? What about a sort of B-movie version set in 2024 Los Angeles? Frank Grillo might be the one to star in said idea. The household name and NYC native has worked with almost every action superstar these days (except for Sylvester Stallone, as we learned from our recent interview with him), so it’s too bad none of these guys appear alongside him in his new B-movie.




Lights Out, which hits the masses this week, follows a drifting ex-soldier who turns into an underground fighter. Grillo isn’t alone either, as a few known Hollywood actors also co-star here, but the talent isn’t enough to solidify Christian Sesma’s new feature as a standout amongst the countless other gritty action flicks out there.


Don’t Rough Up the Duff

Lights Out

Lights Out (2024)

2.5/5

Release Date
February 16, 2024

Director
Christian Sesma

Runtime
1hr 30min

Writers
Chad Law , Garry Charles

Studio
Firebrand

Tagline
They started the wrong fight.

Pros

  • Some of the high-stakes fight scenes are enjoyable and entertaining.
  • The flashback moments featuring Duffy in the U.S. military overseas are some of the best parts of the film, but unfortunately, they don’t come along enough.
Cons

  • The dynamic between Rachel and Duffy is played too safe, leaving audiences wanting more.
  • The storyline and plot twists are far too predictable.

Mekhi Phifer meets on the streets of Los Angeles. Max, an ex-con opportunist, sees a chance to win money in these skilled fistfighters. 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 reportedly exist in real life, according to our recent interview with the director.


Christian Sesma also helmed Section 8 (2022) with Dolph Lundgren, so seeing him take on the Lights Out script from Chad Law, Garry Charles, and Brandon Burrows isn’t exactly a shock. Watching Duffy in action during some high-stakes brawls, as hotheaded spectators engulf the scene, mark some of the highlights of Sesma’s latest feature.


But what’s more intriguing are those occasional flashback moments that reveal the morally conflicted Duffy in the U.S. military overseas. These moments are shot with grace, but there simply just isn’t enough of them. Oh well. Sesma instead keeps the focus on the present-day grit as these down-and-out LA residents try to make it in this world that has seemed to betray them in years past. Duffy seems too smart to be following around the sleazy Max, but it does lead him to Max’s sister Rachel (a standout, Erica Peoples). We sense a spark between Duffy and Rachel as they all spend more time together, and it’s too bad — and surprising, for that matter — that a hard R-rated movie like this doesn’t lean more into any sort of eroticism here. This dynamic is instead played safe, and we’re left wondering, “What could have been…”

6:55

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Missed Opportunities: War Vet, Steamy Love

There is more than just Duffy, Max, and Rachel, however, so not to 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) might make you smirk from time to time. King is lightyears away from her Sin City look, where she played twin sisters in the Mickey Rourke storyline. It’s too bad all these little elements of Lights Out come off as merely surface level.


It also doesn’t help that the twists and turns along the way come off as just too predictable. You don’t have to be a film snob to see them coming. Sometimes, a B-movie is A-OK for the film’s end result, but it’s clear Sesma is trying for something more instead of leaning into the pulpiness of it all. The way Sesma captures Grillo in those war flashbacks comes off as artistic, even in the vain of how Zack Snyder introduces his characters in those flashy opening-credit sequences he’s known for.

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What if Lights Out were stripped down to just Duffy, Max, and Rachel, and half the movie centered more on Duffy’s time overseas? A sort of parallel storyline between past and present could perhaps have been a more hard-hitting feature. With a catchy, pun-intended title like Lights Out, and given the trendy fight-club vibe of it all, this could have been franchise material if done correctly. Instead, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the actors here were to reteam with director Sesma for an entirely different, gritty action flick down the line. It’s plain to see that they all probably had a good thing going in putting this film together. And Grillo is reliably fun to watch in more ways than one, so we’ll be sure to tune in for his next effort. From Quiver Distribution, Lights Out hits theaters, on-demand, and digital Friday.

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