Judge Gordon Sullivan once had a crush on Blondie Bumstead.
Cassie's done stripping…now she's gonna blow you away!
The world is apparently finally catching up with Rodriguez and Tarentino, who predicted the rise of neo-grindhouse cinema with their tragic box-office flop Grindhouse. Now we're seeing films like Piranha 3D and Machete that are self-consciously harkening back to those Seventies grindhouse flicks and finding some success. However, everything has a price. For every great grindhouse throwback the universe must find some balance with a lesser film. That lesser film in this case is Stripped Naked, which promises sleazy grindhouse goodness, but delivers only the most tepid of exploitation pleasures.
Stripped Naked is the story of Cassie (Sarah Allen, Secret Window), a stripper whose boyfriend leaves her on the side of the road during an argument. While trying to get to a phone, she runs into a guy who's about to do a drug deal. When he and the other party end up shot, Cassie now has $90,000 in cash, $90,000 in drugs, and a car to get her home. She dreams of using the money to leave her life of stripping and retire to Paris. Her dreams, however, may be thwarted by the man who owns the drugs and the money, especially when he sends one of his goons looking for the car that Cassie borrowed, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.
Stripped Naked has only two things to sell, but nobody's buying:
• Violence. Stripped Naked tries to position itself in the vein of other wronged-women pictures. Part of the fun should be seeing Cassie pushed to the limit and then retaliating in bloody fashion. Sadly, this is not to be. There is some violence in the film (including some on Cassie's part), but it doesn't occupy much of the film's running time. The violence that does show up is pretty well done, especially for a lower-budgeted film, but is way too restrained for a film that seems to going for that exploitation/grindhouse vibe. Sure there is some blood, and even some interesting kills, but there's nothing that goes gloriously over the top in the best grindhouse tradition.
• Sex. It's called Stripped Naked. The main character is a stripper. And yet, unless the cuts are subliminal, we don't actually see any nudity until the film's final moments. Sure, there are a number of scantily clad ladies (and if you watched this film you'd think that all strippers wear nothing but pleated skirts and bras), but considering they're supposed to be strippers, there's a distinct lack of the taking off of clothing. That would be fine if the film didn't advertise itself as part of the exploitation tradition. Measured against the classics, Stripped Naked may as well be a family film based on the amount of nudity and sex. And no, the brief moments of implied lesbianism aren't enough to take the film sleazy enough.
Without good sex and violence to sell itself, Stripped Naked is left with plot and character to make it through. Sadly, those can't save the film either. None of the characters are particularly likeable, memorable, or interesting. Cassie doesn't show much spine (until she magically does), and her obsession with Paris and French men is not realistic enough to be believable, and too pathetic to be funny. The plot is the pretty standard money/revenge formula, with the whole "getting out of the life" narrative thrown in for good measure. It's been done before, and done better, which means there's little reason to watch it here.
On the plus side, the film looks pretty good on DVD. Although too low budget to enter into reference quality territory, the generally dark film looks solid, with nice blacks, no serious compression problems, and decent rendition of skin tones. The surround audio is a bit wasted on a film that's mostly dialogue, but everything is clear and crisp on the track. There are no extras to speak of aside from the film's trailer.
Perhaps I'm being too hard on Stripped Naked and pushing the grindhouse connection too far. Maybe it's just a modest little revenge thriller made on a shoestring budget. In that context it's still not great, but doesn't fail completely in the way that it does as an exploitation flick. I should also mention that the acting in the film is pretty solid for a film of this budget, so that keeps it from being a total waste.
Stripped Naked doesn't offer much in the way of violence or sex to sell its tired story of greed and revenge. Although the acting isn't bad, and neither is the DVD presentation, Stripped Naked is only at best worth a rental for fans of low-budget features.
Stripped Naked doesn't get naked enough. Guilty.
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