Director: Eduardo Rodriguez
Cast: Briana Evigan, Dolph Lundgren, Sean Faris, Jon Huertas
Plot: A couple move into a house, unaware that it is a place for a cartel to hide packages. When the couple stumble across something they shouldn’t, a hit man (Lundgren) is called to take care of them.
Stash House is a very dependable thriller. I rented it expecting to find a by-the-numbers Dolph Lundgren flick, a cheap rental for those that want to see more of the actor after watching the Expendables. As it happens, this is a very intelligent thriller, featuring two likeable characters, getting trapped in a house and having to figure out how to escape the two bad guys. It is basically a 2012 reboot of ‘Safe House’ without the legal problems of calling it a reboot of ‘Safe House’.
This is the second straight-to-DVD action I have watched for B Movie Wednesdays featuring an Expendables star, the other being Enemies Closer, and the one thing those films has in common was casting the big action star as the movie’s villain. In both cases, this is the key thing that made those films much better than I was expecting. In the 80s and 90s I think we were happy to watch these actors star as the lead, beating up villains that never stood a chance, but nowadays they are much better suited as bad guys. It acts as a clever role reversal. When we realise that these two normal people have to take out Dolph Lundgren, a man made iconic for being indestructible, we begin to fear for them. We have no idea how anyone would actually go about killing him, so when the good guys come up with a plan that we have a very good suspicion won’t work, we are left peeking through our fingers. It helps that this movie has two lead good guys, so there is a good chance that one of them will be killed off, making the comfort of narrative logic obsolete when the tension begins climbing. Dolph Lundgren seems comfortable as the bad guy, his features suited to portraying this hulking killer. The only difference between him and Jean-Claude Van Damme is that Van Damme delivered a relatively strong performance, while Lundgren merely coasts through this film. However, I have never seen him not coast through a movie, so this will not come as an off-putting surprise.
Stash House’s strength is the total inability of the audience to guess what is going to happen. Sean Faris and Briana Evigan (an Oraclelly approved actress), are pretty much helpless throughout most of the movie. They never become annoying heroes, because they do try to get out of their situation, but they are always outmatched by the clever villains. The tension does dip in the middle act of the story. The writers are only partially to blame here, because it is a tough thriller to get right. The trapped house storyline always struggles to figure out how to get from the introduction to the climax. A lot of this movie features Dolph Lundgren and Jon Huertas (also very good in this), stalking the outside of the house, while the two heroes panic inside. The running time does begin to stretch, because no one is quite sure how to keep things interesting. As far as these thrillers go, Stash House does do a good job of keeping our attention, although to get to the next part of the plot, there is a massive jump in plausibility. However, it keeps the story flowing, so by that point, you just let the writers take that one liberty.
The ending is a little messy. The writers write themselves into a corner and it seems that the last few scenes drift along logically, although it does require some serious leniency with logic. It does the job, I guess, but it would have been nice if the climax was a little tighter. With slower actions like this movie, a weak ending can really affect a final verdict. It also doesn’t have too much action, going for a thriller style finish. I usually don’t mind this, but when you get Dolph Lundgren into your movie, he kind of feels wasted if he doesn’t actually beat anyone up. Sure, it could have been a bit silly if these two normal heroes were able to take on this massive assassin in a fistfight, but it needed something to tie up the movie. As it stands, Stash House becomes a fun distraction, but there is a very good reason it was relegated to DVD.
Final Verdict: It has its pacing problems, but Stash House is acted and directed well enough to make it a good ‘staying-in’ thriller.