Patrick Wilson with one of my favorite movies, the newest version of The Alamo. In the decade-plus since (again, it's 11 freaking years later), Wilson has worked steadily and turned in some very solid performances. He hasn't taken that next step though, no star-making role that helped him take the next step. Courtesy of some studio shenanigans, this next flick might not be that role, but Wilson, well, he absolutely steals 2014's Stretch.
After several years in Los Angeles trying to become an actor, a man named Stretch (Wilson) has cleaned himself up after a particularly bad break-up with the girl (Brooklyn Decker) he was about to propose to. He kicked a drug and drinking problem and has slowly but surely been paying off his gambling debt. Well, all his plans are kinda up in the air now. Working as a limo driver, he's threatened by his boss to pick things up, to help the company, and to do so NOW. That's the least of his problems though. As he's off to pick up a client, his bookie chases him down with a menacing thought. His debt has been bought by a rival bookie, and now Stretch has until midnight to pay up the $6,000 he owes. What sounds impossible might not be too bad if his next client, eccentric billionaire Roger Karos (Chris Pine) somehow comes through with a huge tip. What's getting that tip entail? Even Stretch doesn't know what awaits.
This helter-skelter crime thriller (with some very funny moments mixed in) from director Joe Carnahan (who also wrote the screenplay) has a less than pleasant production run. Originally scheduled for a theatrical release March 2014, it was scrapped and only released via iTunes, Amazon and On-Demand this past fall, October 2014. Biggest takeaway? I don't know what kind of response 'Stretch' would have gotten in theaters, but I loved it. Smart, funny, stylish and featuring a deep, talented cast that looks to be having a ball. It isn't your normal old action thriller either, trying to be something different, something better. In a movie age of lowest common denominator -- what appeals to the most viewers -- it's cool and refreshing to see a movie just try something different. When it works? All the better, and Stretch works in a big way.
It starts with a style. Voiceover narration is nothing new in crime thrillers, but this one is almost non-stop. If Wilson's Stretch isn't actually talking on-screen, the narration kicks in. That could be a deal-breaker, but man, it works. Stretch wants to be an actor and as he gets deeper and deeper into this whirlwind of a night, he becomes that actor, pretending to be all sorts of things to get in and out of all these messes. As a CSI Miami producer once told him, 'Own your space.' Well, he does. The basis for the story is a sub-genre, the overnight movie where a whole bunch of stuff happens in one extended night. 'Stretch' was filmed in Los Angeles at night, a world unto itself and all the people and goofs and crazies that our intrepid, troubled limo driver will come across. It gets crazier by the minute, and I laughed and loved it throughout. Style to burn but not a style that tries too hard.
There's a certain charm to Wilson's titular character and a credit to Wilson in general. Our desperate, not so heroic limo driver isn't the most likable character. He's a bit of an a-hole. Now that said...I did like him. You're rooting for him because it's just too goofy not to. I thought Wilson was great here. He's excellent delivering the narration as the action develops, as we hear his thoughts in the moment of how to improvise, how to get through this night alive and with some cash. By the end of the movie, he's beat up, bloodied and bruised, and you feel like you've been through the ringer with him. A sign and show of the talent he has, talent that will hopefully lead to more bigger and better parts.
I thought it was odd that co-star Chris Pine went uncredited for his part here. He's previously worked with Carnahan on Smokin' Aces and has the second-most screentime of the entire cast. Blah blah blah I guess. He's a scene-stealer. His Karos is unhinged, possibly a lunatic and an alpha-male who doesn't have a care in the world...although he definitely should. Similar to his part in Horrible Bosses 2, Pine just commits to the craziness/goofiness and goes for it. The result is that it feels real and funny, not forced. His chemistry with Wilson is perfect as the night goes on, two guys playing off each other seamlessly. Also, stick around for the outtakes in the credits. There's a ton of laughs, but the best scenes have Wilson and Pine trying not to crack up in what looks to be an improvised scene. Very funny stuff.
The cast overall is excellent. Also look for Ed Helms as Karl -- with a 'K' -- a limo driver who killed himself and now serves as Stretch's conscious of sorts...while sporting a mustache he grew in Hell. Yeah, go with it. It works. Jessica Alba plays Charlie, Stretch's dispatcher trying to help him out with some major clients while James Badge Dale plays Laurent, a mystery man caught up in the nighttime full of betrayal and international intrigue. Appearing as themselves as clients are David Hasselhoff and Ray Liotta (another Smokin' Aces co-star) while Randy Couture appears in uncredited fashion as El Jovi, a rival limo client with some extravagances. Matthew Willig is memorable as Boris, his tow-truck driving brother and enforcer.
In the end, things are wrapped up a little too tidy for my liking, but overall, I loved this movie. A thrill ride in 94 minutes, the pace never slows down and it's entertaining and fun throughout. Highly recommended tracking it down.
Stretch (2014): *** 1/2 /****