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.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Stash House (2012)
This is one I've been wanting to get to for some time. If you've been rocking with me for any amount of time, you know Dolph Lundgren is the tops for me, the Babe Ruth of DTV action, and anything he's in, especially DTV, is a must see. Obviously, this is no exception.
Stash House is about a young couple (Briana Evigan and Sean Faris), who go to the dream foreclosure house that the husband has picked out for them. Problem is, it's a foreclosure stash house, and what's inside the drug cartels want. So they send Dolph over to help out this other guy to get it. Of course, as luck would have it, this stash house is equipped with the best in security equipment, and now the couple are holed up inside, hoping Dolph doesn't get in and kill them.
I feel like it's not unreasonable to ask a film to do something-- anything-- to make me interested within the first 20 minutes. Most people want to be drawn in right away, so my 20 minutes is very generous. After that, if you haven't done it, you won't be able to do it, and I think the first plot point in this film came in around the 22-minute mark. No good. There were other major flaws here though. No real character development, which, in a bad action film is fine, but when retreading over well-trodden territory like this film's plot, I need a couple I care about if I'm going to care what happens to them. There was this vague idea that maybe the wife was more down-to-earth and the husband more all about money, but they never got off the ground floor with that one. Later, we had an insinuation that the husband had been cheating with the wife's best friend. Again, it never got beyond the insinuation stage. We also had potential intrigue between Dolph and his bosses, but it was never more than potential. As far as I can tell, the only thing new this film was trying to bring to the table was the use of surveillance footage for entire scenes, which first, wasn't new-- I can see that crap in real life on TruTV--, but second, was annoying and wasted what was good cinematography in the real cinematic shots. Sautéed in wrong sauce is as generous a take on this film as I was in the beginning with giving them 20 minutes to do something interesting.
The Dolph is the most disappointing, because in the few moments where his character has some real nuance, he rings the hell out of it to get every drop and make the most of it. Most of the film though is either the couple, the guy Dolph is with, or shots of Dolph not really doing anything. This should be Dolph's movie. At the very least, this should be Dolph giving us Gary Oldman in Léon: The Professional. His character needed the room to do that, and it never happened, except for a few moments near the end, which, in a way made the film that much more uneven because we're left wondering why this character didn't figure more prominently near the beginning, and why he's such a big deal now. I know Dolph was looking to do something outside the usual action film role by taking this, and the fact that it didn't work shouldn't be an indictment on him.
It's interesting to consider what this role is for him though. Other than the DTV Universal Soldier sequels, where he was playing an already established villain from a big screen flick, all of Dolph's DTV films have had him as the hero. Sometimes, like in One in the Chamber, he plays a wild card, but never the villains like in Universal Soldier, Rocky IV, or Johnny Mnemonic. One could make the further point that, outside of Masters of the Universe, all of Dolph's mainstream Hollywood films have either had him as a villain, or an almost villain-- or as comic relief like he was in The Expendables 2. What a weird dichotomy, right? On the video store shelves he's always the hero, and on the big screen he's always the villain. Was it as a simple as he only had one bite of the lead hero cherry, and once Masters of the Universe flopped, that was it? What a fascinating career tract Dolph has had.
Man, we were hit over the head with that surveillance footage. I get it, the property is under surveillance. I get it. I get it. I get it. I get it. I get it. I get it. Is that annoying yet? Try watching a movie that insists on stuffing our faces in grainy surveillance footage. Once or twice is cool, but entire scenes taking place in that film quality? Why am I even watching the movie then? Why don't I just go down to the 7-11 and hang out behind the register? Hell, why don't I get a job there, and get paid to watch their surveillance footage, instead of paying to see it in this movie.
The thing is, we had some really nice shots throughout, the kind of thing we'd want from a real stylish thriller. Sometimes these shots were poorly used, like one of the two cell phones in the backseat of the couple's car-- ooh, foreshadowing, thanks for hitting us over the head with that one! A lot of the other ones created the mood and tension a thriller like this requires, which made it all the more frustrating that we had to suffer through so much of the surveillance footage, when we had this level of cinematography that could have made those scenes so much nicer to watch.
This is a pass for me. We've seen this plot before, and while this brings nothing new to the table, it also gives us poorly formed characters, which is especially detrimental with the plot the film was leaning on; then we had the aforementioned grainy surveillance footage, and an underutilized Dolph. In the end, none of it worked, which was too bad, because I was looking forward to it.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1919090/