Sometimes, I can only shake my head in dismay at some of the decisions that roll out of Hollywood, specifically Universal Studios in this case. I’ve been following the career of director / writer Joe Carnahan for years, going back to his first major release ‘Narc’ (2002) and I’ve always gotten SOMETHING out of his films, even the lesser ones like ‘The A-Team’ (2010). First off, Carnahan’s flicks are always pretty to look at. He seems to favor a Tony Scott-inspired visual dynamic, with the extensive use of telephoto lenses, rich color schemes and quick but competent editing complimenting his often subtly wacky, almost Tarantino-like script choices (‘Smokin Aces’ (2006), in particular). So, as with all directors that I respect and enjoy the work of, I was curious to see what Carnahan would conjure up next. There’d been a number of potentially cool scripts floating around the man’s sphere of influence (‘White Jazz’, ‘Narco Sub’, his untitled Pablo Escobar story etc), but it always sounded like he kept running into maddening obstacles in the pursuit of these projects.
Then, out of the blue, I got wind of THIS flick. ‘Stretch’ is one of those movies that managed to fly in completely under the radar and, given the cast, one would think that it would be poised to take The Big Screen by storm. But alas, THAT idea wasn’t meant to be.
Before I get into the shameful treatment of this flick, let’s tackle The Story:
Patrick Wilson (‘Watchmen’) plays ‘Stretch’, a wannabe actor-turned-limo driver who’s pushed through a serious episode of substance abuse and gambling addiction, and now wants nothing more than to find The Love of His Life and to move on from the sleazier aspects of Hollywood. Unfortunately, his past seems to have other ideas. After his bookie (to whom he owes $6000) falls under New Cantonese Management, the order is put out for ‘the books’ to be settled and outstanding debts to be paid. This includes ‘Stretch’s 6 grand and if his ‘bookie’ doesn’t get the cash by midnight, many parts of the limo driver’s anatomy stand to be painfully broken. While having to contend with this uncomfortable situation, ‘Stretch’ also has to navigate the cut-throat machinations of the Hollywood limousine industry, in particular a rival company comprised of a family of brutal Russian thugs, aptly named ‘Cossacks’. Desperate to dig up the cash he owes, ‘Stretch’ enlists the aid of the feisty receptionist at his company’s home office, ‘Charlie’, played with enthusiasm by the always adorable Jessica Alba. In fairly short order, ‘Charlie’ comes up with a client that MAY be able to help ‘Stretch’ out of his bind. Chris Pine (‘Star Trek’) plays ‘Roger Karos’, a lunatic multi-millionaire who literally parachutes into ‘Stretch’s life, and proceeds to put the hapless driver through a multitude of wacky and dangerous scenarios as he pursues a murky agenda. Excitement and hilarity ensue.
My girlfriend and I laughed our asses off watching this flick and while we did, I kept trying to wrap my head around Universal’s baffling decision to quietly dump this star-studded piece of entertainment straight on to the Video on Demand market, completely bypassing the theatrical release that it (in my opinion) deserved. In that respect, ‘Stretch’ reminded me of Mel Gibson’s ‘Get the Gringo’ (2012), in that all the flash and effort of a major studio release was present and accounted for, only to then have the surprisingly entertaining flick unceremoniously dumped onto the VoD and ‘Direct to DVD’ markets. Now, in THAT case, with Gibson’s solidified reputation as an angrily drunk, vocally anti-Semitic asshole featured VERY prominently in the Public Eye, I can understand the studio backing to an arm’s length from the shit-show he’s become. Here, it makes no sense that an original, slickly-presented and amusing movie like this would suffer the same lack-luster treatment. The Cast alone has me shaking my head at that decision.
Aside from Patrick Wilson, Chris Pine and Jessica Alba, we also get James Badge Dale (‘Iron Man 3’) as an angry undercover FBI agent, Ed Helms (‘The Hangover’) as the hilarious delusion / ghost of a star limo driver from the past, and hottie Brooklyn Decker (‘Battleship’) as ‘Stretch’s ex- girlfriend ‘Candace’; a woman with some of the worst timing EVER (you’ll see what I mean). Aside from these faces, we also get some hilarious cameos from David Hasselhoff, Ray Liotta and Norman Reedus (playing themselves), among others.
I have VERY little to complain about when it comes to ‘Stretch’. The only thing that really stands out is a subplot revolving around an upcoming date with a Mystery Woman that keeps popping up via text amid the hijinks that ‘Stretch’ finds himself embroiled in. When the Big Reveal of who ‘PinkMinx’ actually is goes down, it’s a lil eye-rollingly predictable. I had my suspicions as to her identity WAY early on, and was somewhat disappointed when we finally ‘met’ her.
But THAT aside, ‘Stretch’ is a highly amusing and kinetic flick that deserves a wider audience than it was initially granted. It’s a well-executed movie riding on a witty and somewhat subversive script. THAT may be the reason that Universal opted to sweep this one under the carpet, as Carnahan does a good and slightly venomous job of skewering sizable portions of The Hollywood Lifestyle and the decadence and debauchery that help characterize that Oh So American of institutions. If you want a good laugh, along with many moments of zany ‘what the fuck’ness, this is a movie for YOU! Check it out…it deserves your attention.
“I once forcibly sodomized a Vietcong colonel with a stick grenade because he placed an ancestral curse on me while I was interrogating him and I don’t even believe in ancestral curses, but that’s how fucking deep I roll.”