Joe Carnahan’s best received movies tend to be his most somber; see 2012’s The Grey as well as 2002’s Narc, his sophomore effort and his most highly praised to date. Funny enough, both films represent a minority in his output, which is largely defined by shamelessly unhinged action operas in a similar vein to the works of genre auteurs like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Guy Ritchie. Put another way, somber tone poems might be Carnahan’s strong suit, but wacky shoot-’em-ups are his bread and butter.
His latest film, Stretch, is very clearly the latter kind of film; it’s littered with a troupe of weirdo characters, its visuals are utterly lurid, and based on the first trailer (posted above), the entire exercise is just an excuse for ratcheting levels of mayhem and bad behavior. What else do bored, nutty billionaires do with their money but hire desperate limo drivers to stump around town with them for an evening of wanton recklessness?
The film’s influences stay close to the surface, but everything Carnahan does, from Smokin’ Aces to The Blacklist, has a propulsive, driving energy that makes them worth watching on their own merits; Stretch looks to be no exception. When Patrick Wilson‘s cash-strapped chauffeur is given a deadline to repay his gambling debts, he takes a job for Chris Pine’s eccentric fat cat, zipping him from one locale to the next in a joyride that slowly spirals out of control.
But the more events escalate, the happier Wilson’s sad sack protagonist appears to be. Sometimes a guy just needs to blow off some steam to get a new lease on life. Stretch probably doesn’t care about that element as much as it cares about orchestrating as much rampant wackiness in front of the camera as possible, but Wilson’s a strong performer, and he makes for a sympathetic loser; the role seems like it’s right in his wheelhouse.
And he’s surrounded by a host of other actors who all look like they’re having a blast with Carnahan’s brand of excess. Chris Pine plays the crazed tycoon, while Ed Helms, The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus, Jessica Alba, Ray Liotta, James Badge Dale, and even David Hasselhoff each join in on the fun; Stretch might be essential viewing just for the off-kilter casting alone. (When was the last time anyone saw Hasselhoff in anything other than a Cumberland Farms commercial?)
Despite early reports of a March release, Stretch will actually hit the on-demand circuit in a few weeks, so we’ll find out if it’s worth the price of admission soon enough.
Stretch will be available on iTunes and Amazon on October 7th, and on VOD on October 14th.