Anchor Bay // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // June 11th, 2010
I used to be a big wrestling fan in my youth; starting in the mid-1980s, off-and-on during the '90s, and eventually tuning out in the early 2000s. At one point, I was a fan of the anti-hero "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (The Condemned), also referred to as the "Texas Rattlesnake." Austin had great ring and microphone presence, but his popularity was so enormous that Hollywood beckoned and he left the world of wrestling to pursue silver screen fame.
However, if history has taught anything, it's that any type of athlete has difficulty making the transition from sports to acting. Just ask Hulk Hogan (Santa With Muscles) or Shaquille O'Neal (Kazaam).
The Stranger (Austin) is after revenge for some reason and the FBI is after him for some reason. Other people are after him for some reason too. The problem is that he's lost his memory and doesn't know what they want from him. There are lots of flashbacks. There is talk of the Russian Mob, the Mexican Cartel, and a mole in the FBI. Little makes sense. The best way to approach this mess is to think of The Bourne Identity meets Memento (or maybe not) with a bad script and lousy direction.
There's a lot less going on in The Stranger than meets the eye. All the flashbacks, amnesia, beat downs and double-crossing are just distractions. They are distractions from the fact that there is very little happening.
The story seems to be a revenge pic. Austin's character and family appear to have been victimized by mobsters. Luckily, a doctor (Erica Cerra, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) is looking out for him and tries to help him recover his memories. Assisting her is a suave FBI agent (Adam Beach, Flags Of Our Fathers). However, it's later revealed that Austin's background isn't what it seems to be. Further, in the final scene, the nature of his identity is once again changed, but this time it's done in a way that negates almost everything occurring previously. The bizarre conclusion is infuriating.
The film also contains what is the worst chase sequence I've seen in a long time. It involves a police cruiser chasing Austin on a motor bike. If you watch closely you can tell that neither vehicle is moving very fast, but you may have difficultly doing this because the scene is filled with multiple and clumsy cuts between the bike and the car. Further, at times the video quality during the chase becomes atrociously bad as if filmed with a cheap handheld camera.
The acting is mediocre mainly because the script (Quinn Scott) and direction (Robert Lieberman, Fire In The Sky) are awful. Austin is a legitimate tough guy actor, but a character plagued by amnesia and flashbacks is beyond his ability. Cerra has little to do as the concerned doctor. As for Beach, his turn as Ira Hayes in Flags Of Our Fathers proved that he can act, so it's beyond comprehension that he decided to get involved with this film.
The technical aspects are below par. As noted above, the video quality, especially during the chase sequence, varies and occasionally dips into the poor range. The audio fares much better, but that's cold comfort.
The extras are comprised of a "Behind-the-Scenes" featurette and a trailer. Neither are worth watching.
Steve Austin has the potential to be a credible action hero as a Bruce Willis-Steve McQueen hybrid, but he has got to choose better scripts and better directors than he has here.
Skip this without hesitation.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R