Superheroes and villains are all over the mainstream media and has proven to be a box office juggernaut… when done right, Films like Super, Kick-Ass and Chronicle have proven a gritty, alternate take of the superhero world can succeed. Unfortunately not everything that hits the screens is a guaranteed success. First time feature director Joe Sill shows glimpses of what can be a budding future but his film Stray does not have the depth to hold onto its audience’s attention. The film follows a cop named Murphy, played by Christine Woods (Hello Ladies), on the case of a strange murder leaving the victim’s daughter Nori, played by Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad), as her only lead.
The film leads us onto the journey of Nori who has discovered she has “powers” and must be protected by Murphy. The tag line to this film is quite interesting and one wonders if different aspects were changed what kind of film this could have been. The film reminds me of a cross between Se7en and the above mentioned Chronicle; both in visuals and story telling. I feel the choice to dull out the colors and bring everything into a dreary state made the film come off flat. It felt overused and that its tone dictated the film’s rhythm which came off dull and uninteresting. Woods’ performance seems uninspired and overly gloomy making her backstory all that less involving and more so expected given the feel throughout the film. Fukuhara’s performance comes off genuine in that her innocence plays well in these “events” happening to her.
The film does not do much in building on what Nori’s powers are and rather than exploring its origins we are treated with an antiquated tale of “woe is me”. For a world where these events are supernatural or in the realm of sci-fi the reactions of anyone seems non-responsive or neutral. We are never given the answer as to what exactly these powers are and how powerful they actually are. Murphy tries to play pseudo-mom to Nori but even their relationship does not render any emotion. Each action throughout feels like paint by numbers of what these films should be but there is no real story put into it. The emotions that come off in the final scene play out like an anime battle; where over the top actions/mannerisms are common place.
One aspect I will commend director Joe Sill on is the final scene itself. The action sequences were very engaging and easily the best aspect of the film. As I said there was an anime feel to it which I enjoyed but if a tighter, more cohesive story could have been built leading into this it would have played out a thousand times better. I hope to see more work from Joe Sill as there is a strong foundation that his future work can build upon.
2 out of 5