Dan Eberle’s Cut to Black recalls independent cinema in the pre-mumblecore era, back when indies were more likely to ape a genre well out of their price range rather than embrace budgetary limitations. The genre here is the hard-boiled neo-noir, replete with grizzled voiceover and black-and-white photography.
Eberle exhibits an affecting love for this brand of storytelling, and the most endearing thing about Cut to Black is observing his whole-hog attempt to make a film that can assume a place beside his influences, despite the fact that its production value leaves verisimilitude impossible. Eberle also stars as an ex-cop who is hired to watch over an old friend’s stripper daughter (Jillaine Gill), who is being stalked; the narrative complexity grows from there, as political figures and longtime vendettas come into play.
As it all proceeds, however, there’s a distinct sensation of watching a movie that needs to be bigger than it is—a climactic action sequence in a field feels oddly anticlimactic, with minimal gunplay and choreography. It doesn’t help that the cinematography, often simplistically handheld and lacking in purposeful movement, pales in comparison with the works that made film noir such a bleakly sublime corner of cinema. While Eberle’s execution falls short, the scale of his ambition can’t help but stir admiration: In an era where indies about people sitting around talking regularly receive accolades, making a microbudget film noir takes some guts.