Stretch director Joe Carnahan is a difficult filmmaker to pin down. One minute he can be offering musings on life and death while facing down man-eating wolves in The Grey, the next he can be delivering cartoonish violence in the ‘better than it has any right to be’ Smokin Aces. Of course sandwiched in between all this is the horror that was The A-Team.
Remember David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis? You know, the one where Robert Pattinson rides around New York in a limo dwelling what it all means while encountering a series of increasingly weird characters, most of whom want him dead? Stretch is the antithesis of that film, but with the same basic premise.
Limo driver Stretch (Patrick Wilson) isn’t having a great year; his nearly fiancé (Brooklyn Decker) dumped him for an all-star quarterback, he quit drinking, gambling and drugs and on top of it all he owes a violent gangster six thousand dollars, by midnight. In a desperate attempt to raise the money his friend Charlie (Jessica Alba) hooks him up with a few premium clients; first there’s David Hasseloff then Ray Liota before eccentric billionaire Roger Karos (Chris Pine) promises to make all his problems go away if he drives him around for the night. Sounds like easy money, but between missing guns, being haunted by former colleague Karl (Ed Helms) and his boss wanting to fire him Stretch is about to have a very bad night.
In case there was any doubt here Stretch falls firmly into Carnahan’s Smokin Aces cartoonish wheelhouse. It’s over-the-top almost pastiche of ‘90s action cinema. There’s a Looney Tunes mentality to the violence and characters on offer. In fact at times it’s so utterly stupid that Bugs Bunny may well find it all a little head-scratchingly ludicrous.
The problems that Stretch encounters become increasingly more absurd as he and his clients delve deeper and deeper into the LA night scene. It seems to be Carnahan offering up a cynical look at Hollywood; a place in which on every street corner, behind every tinted-window wheel is someone just desperate for fame, and willing to do anything for it. Even Stretch is an aspiring actor who seems only able to perform when under pressure. Make of that what you will.
It’s never an easy watch, most of the time it’s the kind of film that’s going to leave you asking; “why did they make this and what is the point of it all?” But there is a certain charm that occasionally rears its head. Wilson is a likable lead, his Stretch might be all kinds of loser but he’s one that tries and we all like someone who makes the effort. Alba offers a cute all-too-obvious potential love interest for him while Chris Pine is clearly reveling in the madcap crazy that arguably shot him to the big time with his Neo Nazi role in Smokin Aces.
Utterly forgettable and rarely making anything close to resembling sense Stretch, much like it’s protagonist, is in for a bumpy ride but just about gets there, if not entirely in one piece.