Netflix Hidden Gem #79: Stretch
Director: Joe Carnahan
Synopsis: When news first broke of Joe Carnahan writing and directing Bad Boys 3, the sequel to Bad Boys 2 (aka the most fascinatingly ugly film I’ve ever seen), my uncertainty about the series was immediately replaced with unrestrained excitement. Movies like Stretch are the reason why.
Overview: Stretch was perhaps best described to me by Cam Carpenter (WHY IS CINEMA) as “if Bad Boys 2 got punched in the face by Holy Motors.” The story follows a down on his luck limo driver named Stretch through one night in Los Angeles. The city rarely looks both beautiful and vile, an apt choice for any story the set in the city of angels. Carnahan’s tight grip on tonal control maneuvers Stretch into a world of carnage, social anxieties, and Chris Pine doing a quality Joker interpretation. Ed Helms even pops up as the self-doubting consciousness chewing away at Stretch’s mind. Also David Hasselhoff gives a bloodthirsty monologue about how he made Bay Watch the most popular show in the world at one point. There’s an unhinged ferocity in the story only someone like Carnahan could pull off.
Through a series of poor decisions and a fantastical voyage around the seediest corners of the city, Stretch is simply fucking bonkers.
The nature of the story switches from splashes of vulgarity to sincere aspirations in a manner uncommon to stories like this. Excess comes in the form of Chris Pine’s Karos, an individual with not enough adjectives to describe his eccentricity. The character of Stretch is one of complete passivity, unable to drag himself out of his own personal hell. As such, Karos provides an anarchic response to the protagonist’s life. Describing his entrance doesn’t do it justice. You have to experience it for yourself. From sexual depravity to countless pounds of cocaine, you are not prepared for the sheer insanity that ensues with him.
Amongst the alternating madness and gobsmacked reality blended together as Karos, Stretch, and the entirety of Los Angeles bounce off each other through the night, Carnahan’s script posits the idea of fate. Do things really happen for a reason, or do we just want to believe they do because anything else would be too depressing? Life might just be down to timing.
Carnahan’s aggressive energy propels us through a narrative with twists and turns, at its heart is ultimately about finding oneself and “owning the space” to find yourself on solid footing – even if Stretch can’t stop pulling the rug out from beneath himself.
LA is weird. It’s a colorful city filled with people both native and from out of town, many with big dreams and rarely the means to accomplish them. Stretch can’t help but feel like an ode to the city and its inhabitants. For better or worse, you’ll meet people in the oddest of places and circumstances. The best laid plans flounder, people can be the biggest assholes, but own your space and you might find something worth sticking around for.
Do yourself a favor and check out Stretch. Own your space. There’s nothing else like it.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures