|Index||9 reviews in total|
Sometimes the combination of good writing, good direction and good casting collides into a great movie. Writer/Director Vin Diesel stars as Rick, the emotional center to a very strong ensemble of acquired family. The older brother who is finally facing the future, Rick tries to develop a new life while still taking care of his circle of strays. He rebels from his sex-filled nights against Salvatore, a womanizing freeloader and his drug-providing past with Fred, his not so bright cousin. Their unending loyalty keeps the "family" strong, even when he falls in love with a midwestern outsider, Heather. Perceptive and extremely witty writing keeps the pace throughout the film, and his chemistry with Fred, played beautifully by Joey Dedio, is worth the price of the ticket alone.
STRAYS (or DOORMEN as his script was initially titled) marks the entry
of Vin Diesel (AKA Mark Sinclair Vincent) into the film world in a very
small budget (under $50,000.), independent 1997 movie he wrote,
directed and acted the major role. To appreciate this very realistic,
modest, slice of New York life the film presents, it helps to watch the
features added to the DVD (the film is released to the public for the
first time): interviews with the cast and with Diesel give a sensitive
and heartwarming background that enhances the movie experience. Though
Diesel studied acting and worked in theater in New York prior to this
film, it was not until he made his own film that he captured the
attention of the people who make things happen. And now that Vin Diesel
is a major Hollywood presence it is fascinating to see this initial
The plot is simple enough: Rick (Diesel) is a minor drug dealer who also works as a bouncer with his buddy Tony (F. Valentino Morales), and hangs with Fred (Joey Dedio) and his 'brother' (Mike Epps, in his first role in film). The guys live mainly for easy sex and camaraderie - all of the have been raised by mothers without knowing their fathers (thus, are 'strays'). As Rick matures he grows tired of his shallow lifestyle, misses the connection with his mother he never developed, and is prime bait for a relationship. Into his life steps Heather (Suzanne Lanza), a wholesome Midwestern girl, the two have a mutual attraction, but as their courtship dance progresses Heather disapproves of Rick's at times gang-like behavior and his drug dealing. They come together in an extended park bench conversation (excellent writing) during which they realize they each have repairs to do on their previous lives before they can enter a serious relationship.
One aspect of this little film that makes it a cut above the many others like it is the quality of natural acting Diesel draws from his cast: uncredited female actors who provide the sex interest for the men are variably excellent, and Morales, Dedio and Lanza are particularly strong in their commitment to ensemble acting. The script is fairly strong, though the barrage of expletives becomes tiresome after a while. Yet in the end, Diesel establishes his skills as a serious actor and as a fine director and writer, and for the chance to see one of Hollywood's major talents in his nascent stage, this film is well worth watching. Grady Harp
Vin Diesel. He can write, he can direct, and he can act. The movie is a
macho man version of a chick flick, and he and a great supporting cast
(Joey Dedio in particular) completely pull it off.
Do yourself a favor and read the children's book "The Story of Ferdinand" before you see this movie. It will take all of 5 minutes.
Rick, the main character, has a huge drawing of Ferdinand on the wall of his Bank St. apartment, and the book has had a significant impact on his life (besides the fact that an illustrated bull has been just about the only male role model he has ever had). If you don't know the story, you won't see the (rather obvious) parallels between Ferdinand and Rick, such as: what you look like on the outside doesn't always translate into what you are like on the inside, "life is a matador" and we all know what happens to the bull if he takes the bait and fights, just because you are a bull doesn't mean you have to act like one, and if you make the right choices and stay true to yourself, you can survive and ultimately be happy.
The dialogue between Rick and his posse rings so true that it comes across as unscripted. It's completely natural, as is the acting. The cast genuinely makes you forget that you are watching a movie. Some of the uncensored conversations his friends have amongst themselves are downright hilarious and truthful at the same time. I was genuinely surprised to learn that some of the male cast members had not known each other before auditioning for this movie. The bond between them came across as genuine.
Stereotypes abound, but each and every one is someone most people can relate to knowing or having known. The acting is so good that you forget they are indeed acting and begin to wonder exactly how much of this was drawn from real experiences and conversations. Rick is hot, broke, street-smart and sought after by women who think that getting him into their body will somehow get them into his heart in return. The only problem is that Rick has begun to mature and change, and he is gradually becoming aware of the fact that his life has no real meaning. He has taken care of his body but not his spirit. He desperately wants to show who he really is on the inside, and watching him take each uncertain step towards that goal is poignant.
The blank looks that two of Rick's friend's (Joey Dedio and Valentino Morales) give him when he explodes after hearing them laugh over something truly reprehensible that one has done to his girl, and the pivotal self-realization that Rick experiences as a result of witnessing the callous and clueless responses of his friends is painful to watch, as it should be. Rick, while gradually introspective, is clearly not fully prepared for the regrets and emotional upheaval that true self-examination brings.
Watching Rick make choices that go against everything he (and his life so far) have conditioned him into believing are all that matters combined with the realization that he truly is all on his own, is touching without being sappy. The true extent of his vulnerability becomes apparent in a scene where one of his friends brings up a conversation he and his mother had about Rick. Rick's eyes and face express just how troubled he is over an unresolved situation with his own mother, and it becomes clear to him how this has immobilized him in other areas of his life. He conveys all of this without speaking a single word.
Watching Vin Diesel emote is something most people aren't used to, but he does do it well. Witnessing Rick slowly but surely allow himself to become increasingly emotionally vulnerable and hopeful of the possibilities that may result from doing so, even with an unsure outcome, is moving.
The movie's low budget works entirely in its favor as far as realism goes. Shot entirely on location, everything from Rick's apartment with the bathroom in the hallway to the street scenes around the Bank/11th/Hudson/Bleeker area along with all the West Village locations is a real visual treat. It's Rick's life, and not all prettied up Hollywood style. Rick is a small-time drug dealer, and he doesn't have an unrealistic seven grand a month "Friends" style apartment. Everything on-screen is authentic and real.
I loved it.
This movie rang very true to me. Excellent dialog for the most part. There were some funny parts as well, but mostly it was an honest portrayal of a similar kind of life I used to live. This is as good as anything Spike Lee has done on a similar low budget and your hat as to go off to Vin Diesel for the effort. The only small negative, as others have mentioned, was some of the confrontational language was a bit exaggerated and unnecessary. One really great scene was Vin Diesel singing "If I only had a heart" from the Wizard of Oz... that just plain worked. The interracial friendships were heartening and rang true.
Strays is brutally honest and... beautifully executed. It uses harsh
words and harsher actions to portray a lifestyle that is real and not
sugar coated for the audience. It does not apologize for this but
instead asks us to understand the truth being portrayed. A war without
blood would not be accurate. These lives without the brutal language
would be false and would strip the movie of its commitment to honesty.
The acting, directing, and writing in this movie was done with absolute attention to detail. I deeply enjoyed this movie. It was fresh and new and at times so real and raw I felt like a voyeur. Rick's life unfolds before us and we are taken along on a journey through his emotional awakening. Gracefully it allows us to experience the lives of its characters without judgment.
This in turn gives us the freedom to feel and grow along with them. It evokes emotion and dialogue and is in my opinion a great work of art.
Long ago, in the days when the Fast and the Furious was still just an
old Roger Corman B-Movie, and nobody thought a franchise could be spun
out with a title as limp as The Chronicles of Riddick, Vin Diesel was
just another struggling actor, earning his crust selling light bulbs as
a telemarketer. With admirable verve, the shiny headed one set out
going his own way - writing, producing, directing and starring in his
own pet project. The resultant work was selected for Sundance in 1997,
and, whilst hardly causing a sensation, was obviously seen by enough of
the right kind of people to set its maker off on his path to stardom.
Little seen in the intervening years, the film, Strays, is finally
finding a wider audience on DVD.
The film follows Rick (Diesel) a part-time dope dealer and general lay- about wishing to transcend his social status and become well, that isn't entirely clear. But something. Surrounded by friends even more gormless than himself it is little wonder Rick sees himself as something special. Tired of the daily bump 'n grind, he looks for true love with the middle class girl next door, but his innate dimwittedness always seems to get the better of him. Strays examines the lives of the buff, rather brutish, none too sharp yet somehow vaguely existential young male. Pasolini made a couple of masterpieces with such material, Scorsese got some pretty decent mileage too. Diesel, sadly, offers up a tepid, plodding insult to intelligence.
The first half of the film actually holds some interest with its ham- fisted dissection of male narcissism and the pleasing attendant whiff of homoeroticism. Disappointingly Diesel rejects this fruitful avenue for a remarkably inane progression into soppy romance, with the Pantene-fresh Heather (Lanza) falling for Rick's dubious charms (he likes mint choc chip ice cream and - shockingly - all the words to the Tin Man song from the Wizard of Oz.) Diesel's acting range is showcased in all its glory: witness the occasions in which his character will offer some pithy advice to his no-good friends first in a low voice, AND THEN SHOUTING IT AS LOAD AS HE CAN. Rick has mother issues, which apparently excuses his all-round prickishness. And anyway, IF EVERYONE WOULD JUST LISTEN TO WHAT HE IS SAYING VERY LOADLY things would probably be OK. The improvisational style aims for Cassavettes but hits some way wide of the mark. The Pacifier had more soul than this.
Review: Although the movie seems cheap and it doesn't really start off
that well, it does end up with a moral to the story and it's good to
see Vin Diesel really act. We are all used to seeing Diesel play the
tough guy in his big budget movies, but in this film he shows that he
has a heart and that bullets can't always bounce off of his body. All
of the cast look like there on steroids, except for Mike Epps, and it
has a deep undertone of a band of brothers who grow up doing everything
together. Personally, I hated the beginning, but when the storyline
kicks in its pretty average. If you keep in mind that this was made
with a very low budget, totally by Vin Diesel, it is well put together
but it's not a classic like earlier Scorsese movies, which it did
remind me of. Average!
Round-Up: After watching Riddick last week, it's amazing to see how far Diesel has come. It's a shame that Diesel doesn't show his acting skills more in his movies because he actually can act. At this point, we all know what to expect from his films. They all seem to be big budget action movies which shows that he has become type casted. Maybe he needs to go back to the drawing board to show that he doesn't have to show his muscles and kick ass in all of his films. As for the other cast, you can tell that this is the first time that they have been in front of a camera, but the chemistry between the cast seemed very real.
I recommend this movie to people who want to see an early Vin Diesel trying to get out of the hood and falling in love. 3/10
Sometimes the combination of good writing, good direction and good
casting collides into a great movie. Writer/Director Vin Diesel stars
as Rick, the emotional center to a very strong ensemble of acquired
family. The older brother who is finally facing the future, Rick tries
to develop a new life while still taking care of his circle of strays.
He rebels from his sex-filled nights against Salvatore, a womanizing
freeloader and his drug-providing past with Fred, his not so bright
cousin. Their unending loyalty keeps the "family" strong, even when he
falls in love with a midwestern outsider, Heather. Perceptive and
extremely witty writing keeps the pace throughout the film, and his
chemistry with tony, played beautifully by f valentino morales, is
worth the price of the ticket alone.
good film. Vin Diesel's script is tight and authentic, while his directing is effective: repeatedly coaxing impressive performances out of his relatively inexperienced cast. tony & fred Good Performers Vin's own performance here is a revelation the likes of which he sought to recapture in the unexciting Sidney Lumet courtroom drama Find Me Guilty. Though he's gone on to capture stardom as a stoic action hero, Vin Diesel's roots as an actor are boldly showcased in this revealing film.
Alright, this movie....is for lack of a better word: interesting. It has it's strengths and weaknesses. Strength 1: Vin Diesel looking, a walk through ten miles of broken glass just to drink his bathwater, HOT! I mean, this whole review could be about this fine specimen of man, but I digress. Strength 2: The acting was good. It seemed almost unscripted. The banter between the gang was perfect and very true to life. Weakness 1: THE ENDING!!! What the hell was that? I mean, let them be together! Bad choice Mr. Diesel, but because of those obviously frequent trips to the gym, I am willing to forgive. Weakness 2: Skipping over when they made love. I know it's petty and girlie and even slightly perverse, but I don't care! I wanted to see some skin. So, there's my review. Thanks.
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