A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Justice League,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Stegman is Dead.”
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.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliot talk about the weekend’s big releases, “X-Men Apocalypse,” starring Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, Johnny Depp in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Mr. Right,” starring Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell.
“Mr. Right” is a rom crime com that plays a bit like “Pitch Perfect” with a very high body count.
Anna Kendrick is Martha, a twenty-something who dumps her boyfriend when he cheats on her. The morning after a wild bender—”I want to do something terrible,” she says.—she it’s love-at-first-sight with a stranger (Sam Rockwell) she meets at a supermarket. He’s a babyface assassin who cold bloodedly murders for money. “Killing is wrong,” he says, “but I’m not perfect.” Part Bruce Lee, part James Bond, he’s as lethal as he is charming. Ignoring the obvious warning signs—he won’t tell her his name and jokes about killing people—she falls for him and is only slightly conflicted on their third day together when she sees him shoot a man. “Are you upset that I killed that guy?” he says. “How I feel about that guy has nothing to do with how I feel about you.” They flirt, banter back and forth and after some metaphysical weapons training are a committed couple. “When I was little I had a dream I was dating Lex Luther,” she coos. Now if only the squads of hitmen sent to kill him would lay off, the couple could decide whether she is his weakness or the Bonnie to his Clyde or both.
Other movies have trod this path. “Something Wild,” “Grosse Pointe Blank” and “True Romance” all mix affection with offing, and all do it better than “Mr. Right.” What this movie has going for it is a handful of clever lines—for instance, Rockwell’s dusty charm is described as “fancy homeless”—and two people who know how to deliver them, Kendrick and Rockwell. Despite a seventeen-year age gap, or maybe because of it, they click.
The first half of the movie, before it turns into a shoot ‘em up, has many funny, charming moments. The preposterousness of the story aside, there are enough effervescent screwball moments in Max Landis’s screenplay to carry the day. But just about the time bad guy Johnny Moon (Michael Eklund) says, “Don’t let this become unfun… This is supposed to be fun,” it’s hard not to disagree with him. What was once a light and fluffy—if a little bloody—confection loses its way in a hail of bullets and beatings.
“Mr. Right” doesn’t get everything right, but in between the quirky trying-too-hard moments are some amiably charming moments.