The Stranger

The Stranger

Even though I’m a WWE (and Austin fan) I can’t say I had high expectations for this one. Austin and his ilk have a habit of making average action movies which usually come with a decent synopsis and trailer. As you think `this one might actually be good’ you are inevitably disappointed. It takes a lot these days to make an entertaining action movie – the fact is that we have seen it all before, especially hardened fans who grew up with the classics of the 80s and 90s. It takes something groundbreaking to really catch our imaginations now, a la The Matrix. That’s not to say that filmmakers should stop trying – if you have a decent plot, interesting characters, and a talented case then go for it.

The main issue here is that of the aforementioned trilogy of criteria, each one is only partly met. We have the standard `man with amnesia wants answers and revenge’ plot (Bourne Trilogy), we have stock characters with little motivation or background, and we have a cast of mostly unknown actors led by a director who is best known commercials. To say there is a lack of substance would show a lack of critical analysis. So from the start we are shooting for average – anything better would be quite an achievement.

Austin can easily hold an audience when in the ring, but on camera, following a script, the problems mount up. He does his best here, but he isn’t in the ranks of Arnie, Stallone, etc. The script is merely a series of words with little flourish laid out so that the plot can reach its conclusion. The only thing of interest is the way that the back story is revealed slowly throughout the movie, although it is done with a lack of skill, leaving the viewer bemused or bored. The director doesn’t show much flair for action here – the fight scenes are few and far between and don’t show off Austin’s ability, the gun battles etc are by the numbers. That is obviously the most disappointing part here – you have a man who can do things that most performers can’t, but you don’t give him the opportunity to do anything. Action movies can (and usually do) excel without much of a plot when the action is solid, but this looks like it was released 20 years ago by amateurs on a low-budget. And Lieberman uses that horrible slowed down/sped up/blurry technique which I despise, so after the first few minutes I was already annoyed.

It does get better though, if you can let yourself into the movie’s world. Austin tries out a few languages, chases and is chased around the country, and eventually comes face to face with the bad guys. Erica Serra stars as Steve’s psychologist and does a good job of teaming with Austin in a sub par role, and there are some fine attempts at twists and turns involving the FBI and some of the characters who we meet along the way. Like Austin, we are not meant to know who to trust or much of what has happened in the past. With a bit more skill and clarity this could have been more entertaining. Overall this is one to catch on TV, or if you are a Rattlesnake fan. 3 stars if you are a big Austin fan, 2 if you are an action fan looking for new thrills.

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