Writer/director Joe Carnaghan confesses that both Narc and The Grey were his longest gestating scripts and one can definitely argue his best final products. Carnaghan has been behind some my favourite films in recent memory, and I’ve been keenly following his work to see what he’s got next. In the wake of The Grey Carnaghan looked to have a modernisation of Charles Bronsan’s Death Wish, starring the wonderful Frank Grillo on the horizon. Studio masterminds, or perhaps oligarchs, decided that it was not a film that they’d be willing to finance and what Carnaghan himself admits to being the greatest script that he’s ever penned. After an abusive letter to the studio head he moved on to Stretch, which feels like a reactionary outlet (with a comedic bent) at what ultimately would have been the setting for his un-produced masterpiece.
Gambling, debauchery and cocaine; Stretch (Patrick Wilson) is living on the frayed edges of life. When the bombshell Candace (Brooklyn Decker) crashes into him it wakes him from his stupor and they begin a hot, heavy and steady relationship. After a year on the ‘straight and narrow’ she leaves him and he quickly begins to slide back into his old rhythm. When his bookie demands a $6000 debt paid up in 24 hours, he must seek out the ‘white whale’ of limousine customers to get the money he needs to save his life.
There’s a lot to like about Stretch. Exploring the Limo industry’s cavalcade of weirdoes and more importantly, the entitled celebrities that they drive around. It’s a cameo-laden flick, which other than Ray Liotta and David Hasslehoff trips, features Randy Couture and James Badge Dale in a disguised way.
Patrick Wilson has those Paul Newman looks and an affinity for hedonism that he slips right into Stretch’s cheap suit. You believe his self-destructiveness. Ed Helms is great as Karl, or more aptly the ghost of Karl, an apparition of the once greatest limo driver in the L.A game that haunts the spiritual plane after shooting himself in the head. He’s Stretch’s Jiminy Cricket, if Jiminy happened to be a sadistic, foul-mouthed back seat driver.
The best written/performed character of the film is the uncredited Chris Pine as Karos, a business man on the run after with a now defunct company’s millions. We meet him dropping out of the sky resembling Tom Hanks from Castaway wearing only underpants and a backpack with a mission for Stretch to undertake with him.
It’s at the introduction of Karos, which the parallels between Stretch and Collateral become blinding. While Michael Mann’s Collateral IS L.A, Stretch is ‘Hollywood’ L.A. Perhaps that’s Carnaghan’s point; this is an L.A story with extremely narcissistic characters, all budding or failing actors. Carnaghan frequently uses internal monologues as narration to offset his leading character’s internal machinations with what’s happening around them. However in Stretch, it’s done in a way that eventually drains you. Wilson’s Stretch is such an empty character that it feels like being in the head of a male Paris Hilton.
Stretch feels like the dots joined from what was left on Carnaghan’s drawing board. While all the performers are tremendous and individual lines leave you writhing with laughter it doesn’t leave you wanting to go back for another ride.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Joe Carnaghan
Written by: Joe Carnaghan (Screenplay/Story), Rob Rose, Jerry Corley
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms, James Badge Dale, Brooklyn Decker, Jessica Alba, Ray Liotta, Chris Pine,