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Behind the scenes with Brooklyn Decker and Patrick Wilson by Universal Pictures. From the new movie STRETCH - directed by Joe Carnahan.
In one memorable scene in This Is Spinal Tap, limousine driver Bruno Kirby is relentlessly yapping to the band, offering his literary criticism of Sammy Davis Jr’s autobiography, until the clients in the backseat finally raise the partition window to block out the sound. Joe Carnahan’s new film Stretch offers a more raw perspective on the life of a driver – the guy at the wheel in the cheap suit is every bit as miserable as you are.
Patrick Wilson’s Kevin is a very specific type you’ll often see in Los Angeles: attractive enough on the outside, a complete wreck on the inside. He’s smart enough to crack a sharp joke, but clueless as to how to get out of his rut. For two years he’s struggled to break his gambling and coke addiction and to lick the wound of a failed romance, and instead his days of shuttling rich folk to and from the airport offers little joy (or enough cash to pay off his old debts).
When the golden boy of the limo world (Ed Helms) sticks a gun in his mouth and blasts his brains all over the rich Corinthian leather, we’re unsure if Kevin, who goes by the nickname Stretch, secretly admires his resolve. He’s certainly spooked that one day he’ll suffer the same fate.
Then comes a magical night in which Kevin is offered a way out. He’ll have to “own his space” as acting coaches say, but if he can untie a perplexing knot of intrigue involving the FBI, a psychologically damaged tech billionaire and Ray Liotta, he may just find salvation – or at least a fun night out.
The night begins by nicking passengers from a rival driver in a white Rolls-Royce, donning a preposterous wig called “the Jovi”. It’s the first step into an increasing surrealist society that, by the wee hours, includes an underworld of wealth and sin catered to by a secret and competitive service industry. (Kevin’s interaction with other on-the-hustle doormen and valet parkers offer some of the funniest scenes.) Our chauffeuring hero needs six thousand in cash before midnight to pay off an angry bookie, but when Chris Pine’s rich nutcase literally parachutes onto his windshield with an exposed scrotum, Kevin decides to do whatever he asks for a night with the hope of securing a sizable tip.
The escapade cruises along gaining momentum, with sprinkled-in similarities to films as diverse as Eyes Wide Shut, All That Jazz and Michael Mann’s Collateral. Reminiscent of Fight Club, the picture opens with wall-to-wall voiceover from a dead-inside beta male weary of a world that offers him no happiness. As Kevin grows in confidence the narration recedes and we discover that this would-be actor actually has quite the mouth on him. By the film’s later section he’s slinging zing like a pro. “Has your father ever stopped crying?” he asks of a white, pudgy wannabe rapper in one of Patrick Wilson’s many laugh-out-loud line deliveries.
There’s a bit of a nasty edge to Carnahan’s humor, but he always mitigates the risks of being uncouth by being undeniably clever. His adaptation of the asinine television series The A-Team had more wit in the grilling of a steak (with the powder from a shotgun shell to cheers of “burn it like it’s damned!”) than in the entire Transformers series. Stretch has more in common with his earlier efforts Smokin’ Aces and Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane than, say, the warrior poet survivalism of The Grey. But there’s always been a self-deprecating factor to Carnahan’s style of machismo. There’s an underlying sense that a life like Kevin’s, even at the center of an adventure with cool lighting and funky music breaks, is nothing enviable.
While the movie does eventually ramp up to a terrific purr, it hits plenty of speed bumps in its opening. There’s a significant settling-in period (and some may just be unable to get on board at all), but it does settle in once the “one night” begins. Also, while Chris Pine is very funny as the hirsute wealthy wacko, a little bit goes a long way, and some of his seat-chomping wears out its welcome.
Stretch was originally intended for a theatrical run, but the studio (Universal) spiked it and has kicked it to a VOD release. It’s exactly the type of disrespect its lead character would expect and, after a rough road, overcome.
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