Even though Edward Furlong has been a working actor for 16 years, the star of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Detroit Rock City, and Pecker hasn’t been able to play anything other than a young punk. He just looks like a kid.

But in local filmmaker Jon Keeyes’ new feature, Living & Dying, Furlong gets to play an adult — and a seedy one at that. With his girlfriend Nadia (Bai Ling), Furlong’s character, Sam, pulls a bank heist then takes refuge in a crowded diner, where he and Nadia hold the customers hostage. But two tough guys (Trent Haaga and Curtis Wayne) turn the tables on the thieves and abscond with the dough. The thriller is pretty ambitious, both for Furlong and writer/director Keeyes, who’s come a long way since American Nightmare, Suburban Nightmare, and a host of other low-budget, locally shot frights. Living & Dying premieres this week at the inaugural AFI-Dallas International Film Festival.

His movies have always been well-crafted, but they’ve never had the caliber or quantity of stars that his new one boasts. For his entrée into the big leagues, Keeyes can thank New Films International, the Los Angeles studio whose execs have long admired his passion and his ability to balance a budget. In 2005, he got just under a cool mil from the studio to make the movie. He shot a majority of Living & Dying on the 100 block of South Main Street on Fort Worth’s South Side near Club Axis. Studded with B-list actors such as Michael Madsen and 24’s Arnold Vosloo, Living & Dying also uses a lot of local talent on-screen, including Killing Down’s Matt Tompkins and a Keeyes regular, Brandy Little.

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The filmmaker hasn’t abandoned his trademark death-and-destruction recipe altogether here. The movie includes a rape, and there’s a lot — a lot — of gunplay. But the brunt of the film is carried by the whip-smart, film noir-ish dialogue and watching folks like us navigate the fine line between being a criminal or a victim. HBO Films will release Living & Dying on DVD in August.

 Living & Dying
7pm Sat. Magnolia Theater, 3699 E McKinney Av, Dallas. $8.50. 214-720-0663.