The spirit of Quentin Tarantino hangs heavy over “Stegman is Dead,” a down ‘n dirty action thriller from director David Hyde. Quirky characters, a badass female assassin and bent morality blend to create a queasy cocktail that feels like the stepchild of Tarantino and every 1990s crime thriller that followed in the wake of “Pulp Fiction.”
When the title character, the late not-so-great Stegman, tries to finance his burgeoning porno empire by blackmailing Don (Michael Ironside) and his former gang of thugs with a VHS surveillance tape of ten-year old crime. Rather than pay up Don decides to take a more hands on approach, sending his henchmen to retrieve the tape only to find Stegman, ventilated with bullets.
With Stegman out of the way the blackmail is done but what about the tapes? Desperate to get his hands on them Don calls safecracker Gus (Michael Eklund), a married career criminal whose wife Diana (Andrea del Campo) is a MILFChat.com model and not pleased about the situation. Ambitious, she wants Gus to forget about Don and graduate to bigger and better crimes to afford them and their adorable six-year old daughter (Linnea Moffat) a more lavish life.
Add to that mysterious assassin Evy (Bernice Liu) and you have a film that feels like a throwback to quirky crime thrillers like “2 Days in the Valley” and “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.”
The Winnipeg shot “Stegman is Dead” makes the most of its limited palate. It’s derivative for sure but director David Hyde brings enough verve the filmmaking to keep things interesting. Stars Eklund and Liu mostly play it straight and don’t allow the story’s eccentricity to weigh down their performances. Ironside is reliable as always while others play into the movie’s wackiness when they aren’t dodging bullets.
“Stegman is Dead” is a darkly funny b-movie that embraces its b-movieness. There’s a subtext about the importance of family but this isn’t really about that or the heist or Stegman as much it is about entertaining the audience for ninety minutes.