“The Stranger” stars one of my all-time favorite dramatic leading men, “Stone Cold” Steven Austin. Austin, of course, is known for his chameleon-like ability to immerse himself in a role and completely change his identity. His turn as a vulnerable, sexually-confused, sheep-herding cowboy several years ago opposite Jake Gyllenhaal proved one of the most profoundly moving experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater.
Didn’t buy that for a second did you? We all know (or the vast majority of us know — fingers crossed) that, although Stone Cold may be the king of his particular wrestling hill, even a mocking comparison between him and the late, great Heath Ledger amounts to something dangerously close to sacrilege.
Could someone please tell me, then, why Austin — or someone(s) in his inner circle — seems to think he’s a perfectly acceptable substitute for Matt Damon? Maybe I’m reading too much into this ultra-brief clip for Austin’s upcoming direct-to-video project, but the only thing running through my head as this played was: “Steven Austin is Stone Cold Bourne.”
To be fair, in the two flicks I’ve watched with Austin in the cast (2007’s “The Condemned” and 2005’s “The Longest Yard”), the guy did demonstrate a degree of acting talent; he’s no Heath Ledger, mind you, but he’s not much worse than say, a Stallone or — maybe — a Schwarzenegger.
Regardless, if Austin’s trying to be taken more seriously as an actor, why do a film that comes across as such a blatant rip-off, as a low-rent version of a very popular, very lucrative Hollywood property? That’s not a hard standard to measure up against. Then again, maybe that’s why this one’s going straight to DVD? Maybe somebody along the way shook their head in a moment of epiphany and said: “Oh crap, this is a lot like those Matt Damon movies! Quick — to the RedBox!” Maybe the intention here is a quick, sans eulogy, direct-to-video death? And then on to better things for Mr. Austin?
The clip is a mere 1:38 in length, though, and I’m fully aware all this may amount to wild, unfounded speculation. But if so, why not release a more clear-cut trailer that doesn’t give rise to such ridiculous comparisons? What are you hiding, Stone Cold?
In any case, Robert Lieberman, the film’s director has a surprisingly extensive, surprisingly impressive resume of TV credits. Maybe, then — just maybe — “The Stranger” will become the sleeper “direct-to-video hit” of the year. Stranger things have happened (that was unintentional at first; but what the heck, it’s no worse than suggesting Steve Austin could do Heath Ledger’s part in “Brokeback Mountain,” so it stays in).
“Stone Cold” loses himself in the part June 1.
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