Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Movie Review: Stretch

Directed by: Joe Carnahan.
Written by: Joe Carnahan.
Starring: Patrick Wilson (Stretch), Ed Helms (Karl), James Badge Dale (Laurent), Brooklyn Decker (Candace), Jessica Alba (Charlie), Ray Liotta (Ray Liotta), David Hasselhoff (David Hasselhoff), Ben Bray (Ignacio), Randy Couture (The Jovi), Shaun Toub (Nasseem), Chris Pine (Roger Karos).

Joe Carnahan is a somewhat frustrating filmmaker. He is capable of making excellent films – likes the corrupt cop drama Narc (2002) or the much better than it sounds wolves vs. man movie The Grey (2011), but more often than not he directs crap like Smokin' Aces, The A-Team or now, Stretch. At his best, he reminds me of Sam Peckinpah – making movies about wounded masculinity – at his worst, his films feel like cheap, uninspired misogynist Tarantino clones. I hoped he had turned some sort of corner after The Grey – far and away his best film to date – but his follow-up Stretch is one of his worst. It was unceremoniously dropped by its distributer earlier this year, and instead of heading to theaters ended up going direct to DVD and Netflix. There is a reason for that.

The movie stars Patrick Wilson, as a would-be actor and limo driver work in Los Angeles. He was once a gambling and drug addict – but when he fell in love with Candace (Brooklyn Decker) he cleaned up his act – and kept clean even after she left him. But he is about to embark on the worst night of his life. His job is in jeopardy, his old gambling debt that he has been steadily paying down, has now been called in in full. His only hope is that his latest client – a crazed billionaire named Roger Karos (Chris Pine) gives him a $6,000 tip at the end of the night. Karos has agreed to that – he needs Wilson to drive him around that night, and run some errands for him, before he heads to a private plane and gets out of the country before he can be arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. But can Karos be trusted?

Stretch is Carnahan is Smokin Aces mode – fast moving, lots of swearing and violence, and women who are used as sex objects if at all. Model Brooklyn Decker is fairly high billed – but she’s barely in the movie. In it somewhat more is Jessica Alba – but the movie does nothing with her, and almost insultingly tries to make the audience believe that she’s the nerdy, awkward girl in glasses who suddenly becomes hot (Alba is always hot). The movie works better than it probably should – mainly because of some background touches. Chris Pine goes completely off the wall insane as Karos – and he steals every scene he is in. It must be fun to be an actor like Pine, who is often stuck being stoic in blockbusters, to completely let loose in a role like this. I wanted him in every scene – but sadly he disappears for long stretches at a time.

Wilson is less convincing in the lead role. He is an actor who has often had to play fairly dull characters – so like Pine, he may well have seen this as an opportunity to let loose – unfortunately for him, he clearly isn’t very comfortable doing so. His character approaches several of his big moments as an acting scene – and in those scenes, he is supposed to be somewhat awkward. Unfortunately, most of his scenes are like that. Ed Helms has some fun playing a fellow limo driver, who recently killed himself, who comes back to haunt the lead character with insane, profane rantings and ravings.

Stretch isn’t exactly horrible – it moves so quickly, introduces so many characters, has a lot of action sequences, and enough of Pine to make it somewhat tolerable for much of its running time. But it just seems like a massive step back for Carnahan – and like everyone else in the movie is simply going through the motions. There is a reason the distributer abandoned this movie just weeks before it was to be released – now we all know what that reason is.

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