Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Sleepless Night with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Albert Camus and Excruciatingly Bad Cinema

Recently I was introduced to the HBO series about polygamy and Mormon fundamentalism "Big Love" by a friend and decided to order the complete series through Netflix.  After thoroughly enjoying the end of the second season I was primed to pop in the first disc of season 3...only when I ripped open the cherry red Netflix envelope that should have contained my highly anticipated third season of "Big Love" I found that it contained a 2010 film called "The Stranger".

At first I was intrigued...perhaps it was a measured drama, possibly in the film noir style, based on the existential masterpiece of a novel written by Albert Camus depicting the absurdity of human existence.  Could it be?  I read the first line of the summary..."Starring Stone Cold Steve Austin..."  Well, I will concede that Mr. Austin wouldn't necessarily have been my first choice to play Meursault, but I am open to unorthodox choices in casting when it comes to experimental cinema.  I read further...

"When amnesia robs a man (professional wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin) of everything -- including his family and his own identity -- he's confounded after discovering that he's wanted by the feds and Russian gangsters. But he's not willing to succumb to the present until he reclaims his forgotten past. In the meantime, that means dodging bullets and backstabbers and figuring out whom he can trust.  This movie is: Violent, Exciting, Gritty"  

Okay so it wasn't "Big Love" and it wasn't a poignant portrayal of Albert Camus' 1942 work of fiction but it was 2:00 am, I couldn't sleep, and the disc was in my hand...why not?  I popped it in...and tried to be open minded.



The movie opens with just about the longest credits I have ever seen.  I was as if the director said, "Hey, we might need to sell this to Spike TV to run in between PX90 infomercials so add as much filler as you can...just get it to 120 minutes running length exactly!"  And then the editor said, "Done and done...you're welcome, second unit assistant grip Jake Heslov...now people can see you had a hand in making this movie five minutes into it and don't have to wait until the end of this piece of crap to see your name."

So anyway, after what felt like an eternity of opening titles we are transported to the Seattle FBI field offices (which look suspiciously like downtown Vancouver, British Columbia...a low budget film shot in Vancouver...imagine that), and we meet the film's bad guy FBI Special Agent Mason Reece...played by the wonderful Adam Beach.  I was a bit taken aback at this point.   What is Hollywood's premiere Native American actor, Golden Globe nominated star of such acclaimed dramas as "Smoke Signals", "Flags of our Fathers" and "Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit" doing in a piece of crap like this?  

Anyway, upon hearing that Stone Cold Steve Austin, or whatever the hell his character's name is, is back from wherever the hell he he disappeared to, Adam Beach alerts the FBI psychiatrist specially trained in treating retrograde amnesia, played by the chick from Battlestar Galactica, Erica Cerra.  Then together they try to track down "The Stranger" or Stone Cold Steve...just in case the plot line got too fuzzy for you.    

Now the rest of the movie is just a back and forth between Stone Cold Steve Austin busting heads and taking names and Adam Beach trying to track him down and then...spoiler alert...Stone Cold recovers his memory, remembers the Russian mob blew up his family and then he wrestles with corrupt FBI agent Adam Beach, flips him over a railing and drops him to his death.  Fin.
So just in case you were curious about the film but weren't sure if you could afford the two hours out of your day let me just show you the good parts and then we can all call it a day...

Stone Cold Steve Austin strolls down the street...
He throws a chair...
He talks to the psychiatrist


Oh yeah, and Adam Beach is in there too...
So if you ever find yourself with the option of watching "The Stranger", unless you have a deep and abiding love for Stone Cold Steve Austin I would take a pass...

Oh and one more thing...I always like to give credit where credit is due and Adam Beach deserves way better in terms of roles than this vehicle.  He manages to be believable in an otherwise awful piece of cinematic detritus.  So if anyone with any clout at all in Hollywood ever reads my blog please give this man work that doesn't require him to act opposite Stone Cold Steve Austin and keep a straight face.  I'll get off my soap box now.  

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