Reviews: Stranglehold

Patrick had a chance to check out the screener of Stranglehold, a science fiction movie he really didn't like. 

When you’re a kid, adults tell you that you can do anything you set your mind to.  Walk on the moon, be a firefighter, hell, you could even make a movie!  Stranglehold is proof of that.  Unfortunately, it also proves the opposing side of that maxim – just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Stranglehold is, apparently, a science fiction thriller set on modern day Earth.  The word “apparently” is chosen because if the heavy-handed exposition didn’t tell the audience this movie was about aliens, they’d never know.  Aside from a few handled props, there’s nothing in this movie to suggest it has anything to do with the supernatural or the mysterious.  In fact, it might have actually worked better as a traditional crime film, perhaps then it wouldn’t be so riddled with plot holes.  But that’s getting ahead of myself; let’s keep it simple.

"You gave me a hat. You saved my life!!"

Stranglehold may not actually do anything right.  The dialogue was written by someone who appears to have a tenuous grasp on the English language at best.  Misused words, odd sentence structure, and some generally unnatural phrasing plagues the films “dialogue.”  To call it dialogue is a misnomer – no two characters ever really seem to have a conversation, they instead recite their lines in a vacuum, with zero regard for the character in front of them.  The result is jarring and disconcerting.  This fact is further exacerbated by the fact that the overall acting performances range from passably bad to abysmal.  One character in particular appears to exist only to spew exposition, and at one point, appears to actually be reading from the script when it requires him to say more than a few words on camera.  Low budget independent films always have an uphill battle, but hiring competent actors shouldn’t be part of the challenge.

For the sake of avoiding spoilers, only a few comments about the plot are necessary – it’s a jumbled, nonsensical mess.  Perhaps the overall concept has value, but it is delivered in such a mealy-mouthed, noncommittal manner that the audience will likely find itself scratching its collective heads wondering why anyone is doing anything in this movie.  At times, it’s downright boneheaded, including a moment where imprisoned characters are discussing their escape plans WITHIN EARSHOT OF AN ARMED GUARD, and another where a character (as far as I could tell) goes from being in a coma, to a walking, talking character, to a prisoner without any explanation or transition.  Perhaps I missed these elements, but you’ll have to forgive me, I was just so bored.

"Don't mind me. I'm just reading my lines."

Finally, in the one area that requires neither a good script nor good actors, Stranglehold continues to disappoint.  Technically, the movie is still a travesty.  The cinematography ranges from boring to obstructive, and an apparent lack of special effects budget required virtually any violence or excitement to occur off-screen.  The sound design is somehow even more cringe-inducing.  The music is often poorly chosen, and even becomes intrusive in one scene, where the music is louder than the dialogue.  One scene in particular features a song so bad (perhaps one of the cast member’s band?) and out-of-place that it actually caused this viewer to laugh out loud when it was featured.  Rounding out this sound nightmare, are the most anemic gunshot sound effects you’ll ever hear.  Laughable, honestly.

One final thought – did the filmmakers accidentally name the main character after a well-known brand of cognac?

To be blunt, being put into a stranglehold until passing out is probably a better use of your time than watching this “film.”

Stranglehold is out on VOD September 15th


-Patrick McDonald