Director: Joe Carnahan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Jessica Alba, Chris Pine, Brooklyn Decker, James Badge Dale, Ed Helms
Plot: A limo driver (Wilson) owes six thousand dollars to a gangster, so decides to try and earn it through tips by helping out a crazed customer (Pine) through a night of chaos.
Do you like movies that travel at break neck speeds? Do you like movies that are willing to go just a little outside the box? The ones that throw logic and reason out of the window, wink at you and promise that if you bear with them and trust them to do their job, you will have a rollercoaster ride? I may never watch Stretch again, but when a movie so recklessly flaunts the simple desire to entertain and does it with such passion and style, and more importantly success, then I have to fully-heartedly recommend Stretch. It is a powerhouse, entertaining film.
It starts simple, albeit a little quirky. Patrick Wilson goes from drugged-up, gambling boozer to successful, loved-up charmer and then back to forlorn and miserable ex-boyfriend. This character arc happens in just over a minute, narrated with the casual shit-happens voice of Patrick Wilson. We love him from the first few frames. The movie slows down to tackle some sort of story, but even then it feels crazy and non-stop. We segue into the quick montage of the life of Ed Helms champion limo driver. Celebrity cameos pop up all over the place, earning a ‘I can’t believe he is in this!’ punchline every few moments. When we finally get to something linear, it turns into the same chaotic ensemble of larger-than-life characters that the director gave us with Smokin’ Aces. This feels more polished though, anchored by a lead hero. The result is an action-packed thrill ride, where you won’t be able to predict how it will turn out. Each set-piece feels glorious and laugh-out-loud. Perhaps the pacing of Stretch means that the few dud notes stick out all the worst (Jessica Alba is under-developed, a plot-line with the ex-girlfriend doesn’t really go anywhere), but we have seen it a lot worse from movies that tried the same style of story-telling. Just be glad that every misstep will probably soon be followed by a joke that just slaps a massive smile on your face.
Wilson has always been a safe bet as an actor, never over-working a character and stealing the limelight of the story. It is why James Wan put so much faith in him as a horror lead; he never felt he was bigger than the story, like De Niro and Hawke could be argued to have done with their horrors. Yet at the same time, you always leave that cinema with a pleasant memory of his smooth style of acting. He was the closest thing we had to an ordinary hero in Watchmen and the likeable victim in Young Adult. Here, he works his acting socks off as a hero that most actors wouldn’t understand. Wilson puts the utmost faith in his director and just rolls with the story. The end result is a character you can’t quite imagine any other actor portraying. It requires that dry sarcasm, that bored face of ‘why is that happening to me’ and then, in a few glorious moments, that break from character to deliver a nonsense line that seems like the most sensible thing to say in the world. “Make a lane, make a lane!” Wilson quips to a room full of angry gangsters, bluffing his way out of a tricky situation. Then there is Chris Pine. Pine has does crazy before, interchanging each straight-faced hero character he plays (Kirk, Jack Ryan), with a movie that plays for fun. Think Into the Woods meets Horrible Bosses 2, throw Satan in for good measure and then marinate all of those ingredients with cocaine. Emerges Chris Pine’s tour-de-force character. Pine works for every line, movement and moment he is on-screen, coming out with a character that you cannot help but laugh at. Wilson might hold the film together, but there is always a sense that Stretch isn’t truly Stretch until Chris Pine is inviting three masked prostitutes into the limo.
Final Verdict: The rules most films are critiqued by don’t apply here. Stretch is a fantastic, action-packed comedy. No more questions.