If Richard Linklater and Neil Labute got together to write a movie, you’d pretty much get E.B. Hughes’ stellar drama “Turnabout.” While E.B. Hughes sums up the film quite simplistically in most of the press materials, “Turnabout” will very much surprise anyone going in to it expecting a drama about a suicidal man and his long lost friend. “Turnabout” feels a lot like Linklater’s “Tape” except so much wider in scope, in the end. While director Hughes starts “Turnabout” like something of a man experiencing a revelation, he injects small doses of menace here and there to completely undercut every expectation we have when the film begins.
“Turnabout” is set on character Billie, a abuser and boozer who attempts suicide one night. After being rescued by two fishermen, he takes it upon himself to call old high school friend Perry. Perry is experiencing a rough spot in his marriage and decides to duck out to help Billie who is about to try suicide once again and is desperate for some kind of help. When Perry meets Billie in hopes of giving him some kind of perspective, Billie begins dragging Perry down in to his world which involves drugs, booze, and sleazy strippers. Before Perry realizes it, he’s entrenched in a world he’s never experienced. While most directors never pull off the idea of a movie that shifts in tone dramatically by the climax, E.B. Hughes succeeds quite brilliantly.
What is essentially a drama about a man at the end of his rope, closes with—well—a man at the end of his rope. I was prepared for a drama about a suicidal man looking back at a friend who basically has his life in order, but “Turnabout” managed to surprise me. And I admit that is an understatement. By the time the credits closed my jaw was on the floor. “Turnabout” is dark, it’s thought provoking, and it’s a pretty fucked up movie, to put it bluntly. Everyone is just about at the top of their game here, including George Katt and Waylon Payne, both of whom work well off of one another. Payne is especially great as a man who slowly unravels through the course of one night, and we’re able to visit with a man who may not entirely have everything in his life in order.
There’s also a great walk on role by brilliant character actor Peter Greene. While most directors with limited settings might opt for something more in the arthouse arena, “Turnabout” is an engrossing drama with a hint of a thriller that opts to show us that—believe it or not—it’s very easy for someone to pull us in to their downward spiral of misery. And that’s makes “Turnabout” so unnerving, in how simple instances can change an entire lifetime. Most of all, E.B. Hughes demonstrates the classic adage that no good deed ever goes unpunished. I hope we can see more from Mr. Hughes in the future, as “Turnabout” is the sign of someone who can tell a damn compelling tale, and leave audiences wanting more.