Stretch (2014) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for language, sexual content/nudity, some drug use and brief violence
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Chris Pine, Jessica Alba, Ed Helms, James Badge Dale, Ben Bray, Matthew Willig, Ray Liotta, Brooklyn Decker, David Hasselhoff, Norman Reedus
Director: Joe Carnahan
Screenplay: Joe Carnahan
Review published October 10, 2014
Joe Carnahan is a director with talent for action, grit, and thrills in movies like Narc and The Grey, but if there's anything we've learned from watching such efforts as Blood Guts Bullets & Octane, Smokin' Aces, and The A-Team, it's that delivering a consistently funny comedy seems to be beyond his ability to grasp. Unfortunately, supposed comic thrill-ride Stretch only cements this notion that Carnahan, while writing some funny dialogue, can't translate those laughs from paper to screen in a manner that produces hilarity.
Patrick Wilson (Space Station 76, Insidious: Chapter 2) is the star, playing Kevin, aka 'Stretch', a Los Angeles-based struggling actor turned limo driver whose life of excess has been catching up with him, even though he's been thinking of late he wants to turn over a new leaf. He has until midnight to cough up $6,000 he owes to some bad guys, which he definitely isn't going to come up with without a miracle. That miracle arrives in the form of a new client (Pine, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a cokehead finance whiz who promises to make it worth Stretch's while after a planned night of wanton hedonism on the town. With a couple of deadlines on the evening looming, Stretch finds himself running from calamity to calamity in an effort to get a variety of deadly interested parties off of his back for good.
As you can tell from the plot description above, there's not much to the story except to have one excuse after the other for Stretch to have to use the acting skills to get himself out of trouble that he never could show in a rehearsal room. This brings out one of the main problems with Stretch: Wilson is too vanilla to buy as having nearly enough street savvy to pull off a proper bad-ass, while his lack of toughness makes his ability to be an amazing tough-guy actor when he needs to be implausible.
Carnahan makes the mistake of cramming too many characters and too many ideas, and doesn't really establish enough normalcy to make the sheer lunacy of what transpires feel significant. For instance, Ed Helms (They Came Together) plays a former limo driver who ends up killing himself, arising now and then as an apparition (or perhaps a figment of Stretch's imagination) to make supposedly silly commentary on Stretch's dumb or indecisive moves throughout the story. Meanwhile, everyone else in the film is a complete eccentric, from coke-head nutball Chris Pine, to even bit parts, like David Hasselhoff spoofing his image for the umpteenth time (funny, but a bit played). Then there's the rival limo driver, the debt collector, the golden-girl dispatcher, the anonymous flirty texter -- and about a half-dozen other off-the-wall side characters. With so much noise, action, distraction, and superficial depth, Carnahan isn't able to find a good comedic groove from which to build any suspense, laughs, or intrigue from, causing Stretch to feel both oversaturated with zaniness and underdeveloped in plot.
More manic than inspired, Stretch is a hamster-wheel of a movie in which Carnahan and his imagination run and run with lots of energy, until reaching the point of exhaustion about an hour and a half later, never getting anywhere for his effort.
©2014 Vince Leo