The Stranger [Blu-ray]
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STRANGER - Blu-Ray Movie
The Stranger is a throwback to home video's 1980s VHS heyday, when athletes and martial artists like Jeff Speakman and Thomas Ian Griffith were fodder for low-budget, direct-to-video action films produced to keep the product pipeline flowing. But six-time WWF champion Steve Austin demonstrates he is anything but Expendable in this Bourne knockoff, as an amnesiac who is wanted by the FBI and the Russian mob. "What could I have done to cause all this?" he asks. Erica Cerra (Eureka) costars as a psychologist determined to help him remember the traumatic events that blocked his memory. Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers) also stars as an FBI agent whose motives in helping the Stranger may be suspect. Austin, who can dish it out as well as take it, rocks the action scenes, but he is also credible in the film's quieter moments, of which, thankfully, there are not too many. Leaving the door open for a sequel, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful franchise. --Donald Liebenson
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To start things off, the plot is not original, its a very watered down and not too well thought out version of every other movie that evolves around a hero who can not remember who he is, but can remember all his combat and weaponry skills. Steve Austin plays that same guy from those kinda movies, an FBI agent who is through to have gone rouge, but it's really because he just has no idea who he is, while all this other boring stuff is going on inside the FBI. Sound familiar enough for you to decide to skip seeing this?
Ok, how about this then... the camera work in this movie is sickening. It's one of those nauseating 'hand held' feel movies where the camera keeps shaking around... whatever idiot came up with that has got to wish he had amnesia so he can't recall ever having to see such poor image quality presented for a movie. And lets not forget the development... what is with these movie makers insisting on drowning out color and making everything look stale? It looked horrible years ago in Superman Returns, what makes them think it would look any better now?
The editing is also pretty poor. Between the overly long intro/title sequence, and the annoying music chosen to be played over it, it makes it unforgivable later in the film when scenes keep switching back and forth between the main characters memories as he slowly remembers things... which was done very poorly. By the time the end of the movie came and all the pieces of the puzzle came together, I just did not care anymore... in fact, I didn't care from the start. The pace of the whole movie is very slow. It just goes on and on and on and then a gun shot here, a bad car chase there, then more snorefest-o-rama, big bang, the end.
If you have never seen Steve Austin in a movie, then I recommend "The Condemned", you may or may not like "Damaged" but if you liked the latter and not the last, you are definitely going to hate this one too.
Parts of the movie went to what appeared to be a home video look. Very low budget on this one. Austin gets shot at for long stretches of the movie and unrealistically never gets hit until he eventually gets grazed a little. He seemed a little stiff and unnatural during his movements throughout the movie. Firing a machine gun or tossing a grenade didn't look second nature for him. He looked rehearsed and nervous.
Austin would be good in a horror movie where he is in a group in peril and has to be the hero. That would be his perfect role. These loner, bad guy-type roles aren't working for him. He doesn't have the Dolph Lundgren or Van Dam charisma to engage an audience...at least not in this movie. He does have charisma, wrestling fans who have seen him know this for a fact. He just needs cool lines and memorable action scenes.
His toughest guys he fought in the movie was an elderly fisherman and an overweight mexican police officer. Where was the tough antagonist who we thought might stomp Austin in a fight, but we wanted to see him fight and get the big battle at the end...none of that here. No cool bad guys, no cool fights, no cool lines. In the end, it was not a fun experience.
Austin fans can skip this one and action fans should definitely keep walking. There is not much to see here.
The stranger, apparently named Tom Tomashevsky (Austin), was an FBI agent on assignment infiltrating a Russian mob. Something traumatic happened, and now he continuously forgets who he is. Having escaped from FBI custody, he is reportedly in the vicinity of Coos Bay, Oregon. Grace Bishop (Erica Cerra) a professor at Washington State University, who was involved in questioning Tom, has such great interest in his case that she goes and tries to find him. FBI agent Mason Reese (Adam Beach) leads the team searching for Tom, and hoping that he will regain his memory and lead him to the FBI mole, he helps Tom and Grace evade capture. Tom remains unstable, and it's not long before he takes off with Grace trying to escape, but the FBI soon takes them into custody again.
While not totally uninteresting, the story is told in a way that makes it difficult to appreciate. The aim may have been to preserve the mystery until the end, but the overuse of flashbacks really disrupts the flow of the movie. We never really get to know much about Tom, and it's kind of hard to feel much sympathy for someone who is mostly dead emotionally. Austin is not a polished actor, but he has screen presence, and he delivers his lines competently. His strength is in the action and fighting departments, which he handles well enough.
The Stranger is a watchable action vehicle, but the plot it doesn't flow very well or make much sense. The final showdown with the mole, is rather underwhelming. The film might be best suited to fans of Stone Cold Steve. Austin's performance in The Condemned was probably more compelling, and would be recommended first to the casual fan.