MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Stretch’ Is One Hollow Ride

josh_lucas_stretch

Film: Stretch
Starring: Chris Pine, Patrick Wilson, Jessica Alba
Directed By: Joe Carnahan

In a scene from Joe Carnahan’s micro-budgeted Stretch that was dropped from Universal Pictures’ release schedule abruptly, David Hasselhoff questions the protagonist (who is his chauffeur) on if he is or is not a ‘punk-ass motherf****r.’ Yes that’s right, the main character then goes on to prove that he is not indeed a ‘punk-ass motherf****r’ for the rest of the runtime. Dealing with the basic thematic weight of any story about ‘becoming a man’ or ‘stepping up to the plate,’ Stretch tries to instigate laughs from depravity but ends up being criminally unfunny and charmless.

Stretch (The Conjuring’s Patrick Wilson) is an ex-druggie, ex-gambler, down on his luck limo driver living in LA who owes around $6,000 to his bookie. After his bookie decides it’s time to pay up, Stretch is forced to come up with the lump sum of his accumulated debts in one night. To do this, his limo company has him pick up a crazed millionaire in Roger Karos (Star Trek‘s Chris Pine, with a lot of hair). Karos, fully aware of Stretch’s unique situation, is willing to settle his debts if he is more bodyguard than chauffeur for a whole night of crazed antics. Here’s another catch: Karos is about to be indicted on a multitude of criminal charges, furthermore amplifying the crazy hijinks that he makes Stretch get into.

Patrick Wilson, the extremely underrated male lead in The Conjuring and Watchmen, seems to be the only one trying to sell the material on the screen. Being a down on your luck character may be a retread but Wilson sells himself as best as he can as a man forced to make decisions in a life he has passively gone through. Stretch abandons his life as a limo driver in the end, making way for a subplot about his hopeless romanticism. Coupled with convenience, Stretch discovers love was in front of him the whole time. And no, this is not some John Hughes movie from the ’80s. Hughes never wrote storylines that included fetishistic orgies that even Stanley Kubrick wouldn’t put on screen. Wilson makes the case that he can make even the skimpiest of narratives seem endearing, the earmark of a great actor.

Chris Pine, better known as Captain Kirk in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboots, turns the absurdity up to 11 as the enigmatic Roger Karos. That doesn’t mean he’s good though. If anything, Pine seems devoid of any cinematic bravura here, like he’s a fledgling actor playing with different ways to recite lines at a table read. Likability isn’t even the biggest problem for this villain seemingly ripped from a James Bond knockoff. Pine just carries himself around like doing this different role is like a good will to Carnahan. From the introduction of Pine’s Karos via POV shot of his crotch, it’s proven that framing a fashionable entrance for an enigmatic character means nothing when the talent behind the role doesn’t show an ounce of interest in making it his/her own.

Through some extended cameos, Stretch tries to make the case that Wilson’s plight is almost totally due to celebrities. Ray Liotta and Norman Reedus join the Hoff to play cartoonish caricatures of themselves, acting like a-holes to make you believe in Stretch’s story as much as possible. Ed Helms of The Hangover and The Office fame even shows up at the most heightened moments of the story as Karl, a recently deceased limo driver who is now the voice inside Stretch’s head. As someone who keeps pushing Stretch to do increasingly dangerous things, it’s kind of surprising that the film doesn’t address its main character’s severe mental issues. He’s likable though, so who cares? *sarcasm*

Dealing with social media implications like dating apps, director Joe Carnahan braves the cold yet again in favor of unexplored territory. Yes, he’s already made another nonsensical crime comedy/drama in the form of 2006’s Smokin’ Aces but his trademark visual flairs like hyperkinetic cutting and shocking violence are seemingly devoid from Stretch. Carnahan proved with The Grey that he would always make something entertaining, even when he laces his morally conflicting narratives with a message. With Stretch, he seems to have gone back on his promise, directing something that is nowhere near how playfully fun his films can be and bereft of anything challenging to say.

GRADE: D

Review written by Sam Cohen 

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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  • Brian Lion

    I feel like I’m the only person that thoroughly enjoys Smokin’ Aces.

  • You’re not, but in no way do I think it’s a good movie. It’s like the whole movie was on the same drug that teenage kid with nunchucks was taking.

  • Brian Lion

    Haha, it’s definitely weird and hazy but that sequence with that kid freaking him out is pretty hilarious. I just think the movie is one of those nice, fun escapes.