The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Stranger (2010)

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I had this film in my queue, waiting for it to come out, and then completely forgot about it. Luckily our friend from Down Under, Sutekh, reviewed it on his site, Explosive Action, which reminded me that I'd forgotten about it. It was too late by then, though, to save it from relegation to Very Long Wait status, plus I needed to review two other new releases, Undisputed III and Eyeborgs. We made it though, and I'm glad to finally cover it, because Stone Cold Steve Austin in a DTV actioner is a Siren Song I need to either endorse or warn people about as soon as possible.

The Stranger has Austin as an amnesiac who speaks fluent Spanish and Russian and is wanted by the FBI. Slowly he regains his memory as the plot deems it convenient, all the while accompanied by a very hot Poor Man's Emmanuelle Vaugier playing the part of a psychiatrist. Adam Beach co-stars as an FBI agent.

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With most DTV actioners, you know in the first five minutes if it's going to suck or not, and that was the case here. In the opening credits, there's some sort of chase with bad music that's really poorly lit, except when they pause it to show another credit, and then it's really well lit, letting us know they could've made the whole thing well lit, but the scenes were so horribly shot they needed to dim it so we couldn't see that. Sure enough, the film lived up to those dim expectations, serving up one of the worst sacks of asscrack in recent memory. Large pockets of bad plot exposition, a motorcycle chase scene that looked like it was shot on a BestBuy $200 digital camera, and maybe two decent action scenes the whole time. Plus, you have an amazing talent like Stone Cold Steve Austin, and he had one good fight, and spent more time forced into acting scenes that he was uncomfortable doing, and were uncomfortable for me to watch.

Seriously, that's what you give us? You've got fucking Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the best you can do is have him walk around with a puzzled look on his face wondering who he is? Come on guys, go back in there and do this over. I want Stone Cold kicking asses and taking names-- and not doing martial arts or trying to be some kind of special FBI agent. I'm talking Stone Cold Stunners. I'm talking people throwing him beers off screen. Then when you keep in things like him speaking Spanish or Russian fluently, it works perfectly, because everything else is so awesome. Go back and watch Rowdy Roddy Piper's catalog for an idea on how to properly cast a wrestler in a DTV actioner, then do this one over. Let's just forget this one even existed.

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Let's get one thing straight here: I see no reason why Stone Cold Steve Austin can't have a great DTV action career. In one scene at the beginning, he was great taking out a bunch of Federales who were trying to teach him the merits of ancient dentistry, and he smashed a wooden chair over one dude's head. They just had to kill all that with bad quick edits, and a horrible plot that required Austin to act in a way that didn't work and took away from action we desperately needed. Had this film been made in 1995, it would've probably been one of the best films ever, plain and simple. It's getting more and more frustrating as I go to see how modern DTV movie makers are killing the genre. Those older films weren't cheesy, they were awesome, and I'm tired of the current movement from filmmakers to distance themselves away from that time. Their films are even worse because of it.

Erica Cerra plays the psychiatrist. Very hot, but it just feels like she's who you get when Emmanuelle Vaugier isn't available. Interestingly enough, they're both from Vancouver, and they were born three years apart (Vaugier being the older one). Someone should cast them together in something, but I can't off the top of my head think of what that should be.

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Adam Beach, the man who made Windtalkers not as bad as it should've been, and now plying his trade on Law and Order: SVU, finds his way into this, and you can see in his eyes the whole time how much he wants to punch his agent in the face. How do we not have better roles for this guy? At least the one thing we can say about his role in The Stranger was that he wasn't type-cast as a Native American. Still, one good thing doesn't let them off the hook for 90 minutes of pain.

Avoid this like the plague. It's a big ol' pain fest, but what's worse, you're sitting there watching Austin ask Cerra about her dead brother, both feeling like you're listening to nails scratching a blackboard, and also knowing Austin could be in a bar fight Stone Cold Stunning dudes through tables. Why, why do people who make DTV movies have to suck sometimes? If I could answer that, I'd be a rich man.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1407078/

14 comments:

  1. I guess I liked this more than you did. It is true that Austin does spend half the movie staring into space with a puzzled look on his face, but I thought that some of the cinematography in this was quite good. When there were arses to kick Austin did a reasonable job. I do see your point though; why waste someone potentially of Austin's action calibre on a cold thriller when he could be mowing down bad guys with twin uzis.

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  2. Well i'm sure Austin will get to do plenty of stuff like that in Expendables, anyways i'm with Sutekh on this one, didn't think it was that bad at all, and at the very least it was better then Damage and Wrong Side Of Town.

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  3. Yeah, after reading your review, Sutekh, I was surprised with how bad it was. I saw that cinematography you speak of as only there to mask the cheapness and shortcutting they did instead of the better quality action you'd get from something pre-Bourne Identity. Had they gone into it saying "Let's make a good action film with Steve Austin" as opposed to "let's make a cheap movie and slap Steve Austin's name on it and see who Red Boxes it", we would've had something really great. I mean, that motorcycle chase says it all. I've literally seen better quality stuff on better quality equipment on YouTube.

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  4. Well I guess we were bound to disagree at some point. I can see what you mean about the cinematography; they did use what Vern over at outlawvern.com refers to as 'avid farts' - fast editing to make the movie seem more action-oriented, especially in that intro. I'm personally not adversed to that style sometimes, but if all movies did that it would get very old.

    I've not seen any of the Bourne movies actually, didn't look worthwhile to me. Are they worth watching?

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  5. Oh God no, the Bourne movies suck. They pioneered that "avid fart" system to cover up for the fact that Matt Damon can't fight, and so they could do chase scenes on the cheap in cities that wouldn't normally allow that sort of thing. What's happened is DTV filmmakers loved the idea of using quick edits instead of having tons of stunt drivers crashing cars for real. They can do a chase in less area with fewer vehicles but make it seem like more is happening. It's just not how things were done in the 90s. They blew as much shit up as possible with as many cars as possible. Take a movie like The Sweeper with C. Thomas Howell and the oxygen tank chase scene. That wouldn't happen today in a DTV action movie, and to me that sucks.

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  6. Point taken and understood. "The Sweeper" looks good, and it has Jeff Fahey in it, so that sells me. I'll keep an eye out for The Sweeper and continue avoiding the Bourne trilogy.

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  7. http://www.mattmovieguy.com/2009/07/sweeper-1996.html

    That's my review of it. It's pretty sweet, but I wouid caution you on a Fahey bait-and-switch, though don't let that put you off on it.

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  8. Yeah those Bourne films are sickeningly overrated, though I wouldn't call them godawful, besides the annoying shaky-cam technique during fight scenes my main problem with the Bourne films is they're just not much "fun" they take themselves WAAAYYYYYYY too goddamn seriously which dosen't make them very enjoyable. And yeah, most of the time PM films are your best bet if you want REAL action, The Sweeper is deifnitely in the top 5 of PM's catalogue IMO, with the other 4 films being Rage, Executive Target, Last Man Standing and Cyber-Tracker 2

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  9. I've seen Shirley Temple movies with more excitement. My god, and the worst part about it is actually a rip off of Bloodfist V except that Steve Austin is completely unconvincing. Seriously the whole split personality thing was just ugh.

    As Jim Norton would say "This movie sucks so hard it belongs in Robert Reed's coat pocket!" (Yes I listen to Opie and Anthony)

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  10. Thank you for putting this in its proper context for me. Yes, a bad Bloodfist V rip-off, without Steve James or Don "The Dragon" WIlson's too sweet mullet. In fact, Bloodfist V had better action too, and no gimmicky edits. If you're going to remake Bloodfist V with Steve Austin, it should be amazing, and this wasn't in the ballpark.

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  11. I enjoyed it. It didn't take itself too seriously, and I thought it was a decent little movie. I think SCSA is going to headline his own bigtime action movie sometime though. I'd watch it.

    I liked whatever Bourne movie has Chris Cooper and Owen Wilson in it, precisely because of so.

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  12. Also, did you ever see "Enemies Among Us", with Eric Roberts and Billy Zane for like two minutes?

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  13. Phil, I haven't seen Enemies Among Us. Is it hot?

    Hey, I'm all for a film that doesn't take itself too seriously, it just can't be big ol' waste of space like this bad boy was. Steve Austin being fluent in Russian and Spanish should've been gold, but there were too many wasted opportunities for that gold to be worth anything. Maybe it took itself a little more seriously than it should've, because a 90 minute series of incidents where Austin Stone Cold Stunned people and had beers thrown to him, combined with him speaking Russian and Spanish, would've been too sweet for words. You need to learn to expect more from life, Phil.

    Oh, and Owen Wilson would've made the Bourne movies much easier to endure.

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