Thursday, January 5, 2017

Directorial Debut: Vin Diesel's STRAYS


Welcome to a new installment of DIRECTORIAL DEBUTS, where we look at some of the best, most interesting, and iconic directors and the films that started their careers. This week we look at Vin Diesel's first, and so far only, feature directorial effort, STRAYS.


Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. Strays comes at the very beginning of Hollywood tough guy Vin Diesel's career. According to IMDb, before this project his only credits were a short film called Multi Facial, and an uncredited role as a hospital orderly in 1990's Awakenings. Strays is another visit to one of independent film's favorite topics, growing up. Not so much in the "boy becomes a man" sense, but more in the vein of "grown-up boy learns to be a man." Diesel stars in the film as Rick, a bro-dawg living somewhere in darkest New York City, who spends his nights going out partying and trolling for booty with his fellow bro-dawgs, an arrogant, superficial and unpraiseworthy lot to a man. Then he meets Heather, the Nice Girl, and through his relationship with her, Rick begins to see the error of his ways and aspire to more from life.

Probably the most interesting thing about Strays is how it's marketed. Take a moment and look at that image I included above. A version of that image got used for the DVD box art as well; doesn't it look like something that belongs on the cover of a thriller about a jealous lover? Lurid art that oversells the movie it's promoting is a time honored tradition, but this is just misleading. But it gets better: look in the upper left corner and you'll notice a graphic proclaiming this film as an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival. I'm not the kind of person who gets overly excited about film festival recognitions or awards -- they're all based on someone's opinion, after all, just an opinion with more press and money behind it than mine own -- but seeing things like that triggers a certain knee-jerk response in me, all the same. "A Sundance selection, huh?" I'll think to myself. "Maybe there's something to this one."

Spoilers: there isn't.

Strays is the kind of independent movie that I reference to answer the question of why I don't watch more independent movies. It's another example of indie film at its most excruciatingly dull. For one hundred minutes, a changing collection of talking heads have rushed, often mumbled and always improvised-sounding conversations about nothing of consequence. They party, occasionally hook up, smoke -- and they always smoke pot, because tobacco is for children -- argue and so on, until the end credits finally roll and we're left to pretend we just learned a deep lesson about life or whatever. The film gains some life when Rick and Heather are together. An early scene of Rick practicing what he'd say to her after their first missed-connection meeting brings one of the film's few laughs. There's a certain sweetness in the moment when Rick wins Heather over by showing her he knows all the words to "If I Only Had a Heart", the Tin Man's song from The Wizard of Oz. But mostly the film just feels bloated with inconsequential filler about Rick's loser friends, and their loser friends. Even that tagline, "Life is a matador", which is taken from the film's dialogue, is never expanded upon. What's it supposed to mean? Life keeps coming up with ways to irritate and harass you until you die? Geez, that's cheery.

From its unpolished presentation to its overlong runtime, and through to its abrupt and somewhat ambiguous ending, Strays makes me glad that Vin Diesel chose to pursue a career in front of the camera, and left his directing efforts as a footnote. The construction is competent enough, but the story is the kind that only the most committed film snobs will find attractive. The rest of us will be left wondering what exactly we just saw.

Strays is rated R for language and sexual situations.

Robert's Score: 2/10



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2 comments:

  1. I never seen this movie before.. Is this some of this Vin's first movie.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i haven't seen this movie but i don't mind watching it though.

    ReplyDelete