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Review: Mangled 'Safelight’ leaves viewers in the dark

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Uneven would be a kind word for “Safelight.”

Two potentially fine performances from Evan Peters and Juno Temple get mangled in a series of repetitious encounters, sudden appearances and inexplicable reactions. Since the film was written and directed by first-time director Tony Aloupis, the blame would seem to fall on him, but maybe a drunk monkey got into the editing room.

Peters (“American Horror Story”) plays 17-year-old Charles, a boy with a malformed foot who lives in the desert with his father (Jason Beghe), who’s dying from some vague condition. Charles works at a truck stop convenience store for the corny-saucy Peg (Christine Lahti), and finds solace in photography. This all likely takes place in the ’70s since Charles’ older brother was killed in Vietnam and most of the cars look like they could be in “Starsky & Hutch” reruns.

Also working at the truck stop is 18-year-old prostitute Vicki (Temple), who has a paranoid tattooed pimp named Skid (Kevin Alejandro). Even though she regularly jumps into truck cabs while he watches, Charles has a crush on Vicki. Being the standard hooker with a heart of gold, Vicki volunteers to drive Charles to coastal lighthouses so he can take pictures of them. They bond in their shared optimistic loserdom.

They bond. Dad gets sicker. Charles keeps walking home the same way even though bullies are always waiting to beat him up. One day Vickie appears out of nowhere, for no clear reason, and saves Charles by pulling a gun on the bullies. This tells us two things: She has a gun and this is a movie that doesn’t see the need for reason.

Eventually, the gun comes out again and the movie ends nonsensically. Hopefully, someone drove the drunk monkey home.

tlong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘Safelight’

GRADE: D

Rated R for language throughout including some sexual references

Running time: 84 minutes