Thursday, March 27, 2008

Steal (aka Riders)

The Action Mutant…
says this movie’s a steal….wink.

Steal (aka Riders)

review by Joe Burrows

(written September ‎16, ‎2007)
I was switching through the channels a while back like I usually do and I came across MTV. Now, I do have the highest of contempt for this network (I could go on for pages about it) but I usually catch one video or so a week so I have something else to annoy me. Anyway, a Britney Spears video came on (the song was “Everytime”, according to IMDB) and it was one of those usually self-indulgent, slicked up representations of the artists themselves. I watch on beyond the point of no return and who do I catch in the video playing Brit’s boyfriend? Stephen Dorff, of course! Wasn’t that your first guess? His role in the video was to basically push paparazzi out of the way, yell at Britney and get angry and kick cardboard boxes. After the video, I came to a rather odd conclusion abut our friend, Mr. Dorff. His selection process isn’t exactly propelled by the quality of the projects but by the “cool” factor of them. This may be just one reviewer’s opinion but look at the guy’s career. A lot of his projects seem to be decided by a certain “it” factor. The projects usually either have some sort of edge to them (SFW, Cecil B. Demented) or seem like a good idea at the time (Deuces Wild, Alone in the Dark). He’s had pretty good luck choosing some memorable projects but this film is proof that the conceit sometimes outweighs credibility.

The Plot, as it was:
Dorff plays Slim, a leader of a motley crew of three other Gen-Xers that rob banks and make their getaways on rollerblades. They decide they’re going to do the customary “few more jobs, then retire” route but are soon blackmailed by a mysterious figure into robbing banks and handing their earnings over, lest the mystery person turn them over to police. With the jobs getting increasingly high risk, Slim and the gang must dodge a persistent cop (Natasha Henstridge), her flippant supervisor (Bruce Payne) and a wacky mob boss (Steven Berkoff) and try to stay alive long enough to work for their blackmailers…and to work them.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Clocking in at a sprite 75 minutes before the closing credits, Steal is one in a long line of “extreme sports” influenced flicks (with flashy MTV style editing) that seem to have the stunts planned out first and will possibly curl out a story a week before shooting begins. From the opening credits sequence to the end, the movie includes several sense bending action sequences that look spectacular at times and eye-rolling at others. I don’t mind suspending disbelief for a story but there’s a limit and Steal manages to cross it several times. The group continually outsmarts their adversaries, yet the script paints some scenes that make it seem like they don’t have a brain between them. Then, there are situations that have them trapped in such horrible predicaments, yet they escape and it’s never fully explained what the F’s going on (such as when they hijack an armored bank car and are surrounded by police on a pier. Solution: put the fucker in reverse and plunge into the bay! They get away with the money AND provide the coppers with life vests! HUH?!?) Dorff plays it all as cool as possible and remains unscathed from this, as does Henstridge because they are both used to the B-movie route. The real eye rolling takes place in trying to figure out who gives the worst performance: Bruce Payne or Steven Berkoff. Payne (Passenger 57) plays the police lieutenant with some sort of drawl that’s supposed to pass as American but it sounds like it wanes every 2 seconds. Try to think Will Patton’s voice put through an electronic voice box and that’s akin to what Payne’s voice is here. Berkoff (Beverly Hills Cop) plays his part with the most stereotypical Southern preacher dialect possible and manages to embarrass himself more by donning a hairpiece that’s worse than Jon Voight’s in Holes! Though it’s less annoying than say XXX: State of the Union or any Fast and the Furious title, no amount of video game-like stunts and edgy trash metal can shelter the stink away from those two performances…and the entire film.

Body Count/Violence: 8. The action is more of the stunt based variety, as there is much rollerblading and car chases abounding. There’s some slo-mo shooting & blood, explosions and people being thrown through windows, etc. A lot of the action is of the CGI variety, which leads to one head-slapping shot of a character being hit head on by a car and flipping in the air like a badly rendered video game image.

Sexuality/Nudity: Henstridge’s character has sex with Dorff in a steam room and shows some rack in a bedroom. I say her “character” because it is obviously a body double. Advice for picking body doubles to future filmmakers: pick someone with a similar skin tone and get a wig that matches the freakin’ hairstyle! Besides, I believe every red-blooded male has Nat’s body memorized after her debut in Species. Jenifer Rae Westley also shows her chest, as “Woman in Bath”.

Language/Dialogue: Fairly strong, as Dorff has to always be angry and edgy.

How bad was it?:
Most of the reviews I read blasted it as mindless action fare, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since the film is technically 75 minutes long. Some of the more forgiving critics praised the stunts for their creativity.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
It did reasonably well everywhere but the U.S. Several companies handled the international releases for this Canadian production, which cost about $15 million to make. Alliance/Atlantis handled the distribution in America and didn’t go wild with over-releasing it. In fact, the film only saw 125 theaters in the U.S. for each of its two weeks (starting 4/25/03), as it brought in an American gross of $220, 944 (or $1,768 per screen).

Film: *1/2/*****
Entertainment value: **1/2/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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