In the review business, we often get films that we find to be distasteful or just plain rubbish. This is especially true when we receive a popular star’s directorial debut. Usually it is an egotistical pompous piece with no merit outside to try to drive the idea home that the actor is a well-rounded individual. However, once in a while we get a film that was directed by an established star that actually gave birth to his career. This is a self-promotional piece that got the world to know the person’s name. The name of this person I speak of? That would be Vin Diesel. The movie is called Strays.
Rick (played by Vin Diesel) is trying to change. He is a drug dealer by day and by night he is finding his next female conquest. However, he knows that there is more out there in the world and would like to have a healthy and real relationship with a woman. He has three friends: Fred (played by Joey Dedio), Mike (played by Mike Epps), and Tony (played by F. Valentino Morales). They call themselves: ‘Strays’. They are strays because they didn’t have a father growing up and were lacking in a traditional family structure.
Rick’s friends do nothing to help his current plight and instead he is lead to figure out things on his own. One day, he meets Heather (played by Suzanne Lanza), a classier girl than he is used to. They immediately have a connection and fall in love. However, Rick has a violent side that Heather does not like. Rick also finds himself being pushed to party with his friends who are only interested in the next conquest. Can Rick be the man that Heather wants him to be and can he break away from the friends who have led him down nothing but a dark path?
This was the first movie that Vin Diesel ever did. He wrote, directed, produced and starred in the lead role. He was looking for his break and this was it. Needless to say, this movie was produced on a shoestring budget. Therefore, while one can certainly see the passion in this movie oozing out of every crevice, the skills simply aren’t as polished as we hope them to be. This movie also led to the discovery of Mike Epps who you could tell was also a face waiting to be discovered. The other actors & actresses in the movie also benefited from having a role in Strays.
However, all the impact in the world doesn’t save this movie. Rick never really changes even though he gives strong hints that he wants to. Only up until the last scene does he really start making advances in that direction. The ending doesn’t make much sense either until you listen to the “Making Of” located in the extras. The other actors minus Epps and Lanza are also nothing special. They go through their roles with relative ease and don’t really act. They are just themselves. It finishes up a very average indie movie that is only saved by its meaning to the career of Vin Diesel.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The film is over 10 years old now but due to the small budget it wasn’t shot under the greatest of circumstances. Chances are Vin Diesel and First Look Studios did the best they could to restore the footage. The result is an average presentation with okay colors. There should have been more improvement in the restoration but you can’t really blame them either.
The audio is provided in 5.1 & 2.0 English Dolby Digital. As mentioned in the video section, the sound crew simply didn’t have the money to pull off a great audio presentation. It is passable, and the dialog sounds alright. But there are cracks, pops and just general very low volume. You could play the movie in either mix and not really benefit one way or another. Subtitles are also provided in English and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: The Contract, Sukiyaki Western Django, The Proposition, & A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.
- Making of Strays 34:44: This is actually one of the best “Making Of’s” I have ever watched. There is so much information in these 30 minutes, that it is uncanny. It should be actually required if you want to make any sense of the film. We learn a lot about Vin Diesel’s early days and how nobody wanted to cast him because they were always looking for something too specific. Vin Diesel is kinda of a mutt, so he’s hard to cast unless you write the film with him in mind. The film was written on a $47,000 budget and actually was cut short because they ran out of money. This goes on a lot about the ending and why it was the shot they way it was. There is also mention of when this film made it to Sundance and how Robert Redford actually came up to Vin Diesel and his crew and thanked them for this movie. A ton of nice tidbits are presented here.
- Original Trailer 2:01: A good trailer that does everything it should. It puts the movie in a positive light and actually makes you interested in seeing the film.
I probably shouldn’t be the person to review this film. The only Vin Diesel films I’ve ever liked were Pitch Black and the Chronicles of Riddick. However, I can say that I do understand the impact this movie on the career of Vin Diesel. Without it, he would be just another bit actor looking for work on a few crime dramas where he would be stereotypically cast as some thug. But Vin has real depth and it shows here. This is a brilliant self-promo piece and should be shown to aspiring people who want to make it in Hollywood. I just didn’t care for the movie that much. The only thing missing from the disc would be a film commentary from Diesel and maybe some of his short films that he made. So while this isn’t for everybody, I do recommend this film to his fans and to people who are looking for inspiration of how to make it in Hollywood. I think I will also take my own advice and pass along this steelbook & disc to one of those people. May they enjoy it more than I did.