Dead bodies and more flop in Stressed to Kill

This locally-shot film is predictable, sloppy and misses the mark.

“No refuge from these inconsiderate bastards.”

About a quarter of the way through the locally shot film Stressed to Kill, actor Bill Oberst, Jr., playing a stressed-out fire safety serviceman, delivers a relatively potent summary for the movie’s entire plot. After having a heart attack in the parking lot of the Bank of America-now-Priatek Plaza building in downtown St. Pete, Oberst, Bill Johnson in the film, gets some sage wisdom from his doctor: Reduce your stress or you’re going to die. Bill’s biggest stressors are the “lotta assholes out there,” and after he watches a popped-collar douchebag get creamed by an SUV, he comes to the realization that killing the people who stress him out is the best way to get his blood pressure down.

So off he goes.

In a not-so-thinly-veiled commentary on our culture of entitlement (and millennials, an all-too-often punching bag in this area, take their shots), Bill’s first victims embody the stereotypical complaints against the current generation of twenty-somethings. When he overhears a particularly uninspired youngish girl get dumped over the phone, he comments about how she should be dumped directly into a landfill. People on their phones constantly annoy him, especially on elevators and in movie theaters, and when he offs his friend’s gold-digging ex-wife, her car selfie is used as the memorial shot at her funeral.

Stressed to Kill

One of five stars

Available to stream or on DVD

Not rated; 101 minutes.

Clever? Maybe. Predictable? Absolutely.

If you can overlook counting the number of times someone gets flicked off (or your shock at the fact that his weapon of choice is a blow dart gun), you’ll eventually figure out what Bill’s real problems are, which are alluded to with clues peppered throughout the first quarter of the movie — his shitty marriage to a unitard-wearing personal trainer causes him a lot of grief and isn’t easy to stomach, especially when he catches her in an uncomfortable and awkwardly animalistic romp with one of her sweaty, overweight clients.

As his victim count rises and his problems with his wife compound, we’re introduced to the detective in charge of investigating the murders: a just-as-weird Paul Jordan, played by Armand Assante, who’s always wearing pristine white knee socks and soccer cleats. Why? I don’t know. Paul hints at the whole seasoned-cop-who-doesn’t-give-a-shit-but-can-solve-the-whole-case act, especially when trying to solve it through multiple attempts at conning Bill into a confession while wearing Tommy Bahama button-ups, but most of his lines fall flat because they’re mumbled so badly you can’t understand them.

And that’s basically the whole movie — hinting at being a thriller, a crime drama, a horror film, an action flick, a comedy. Unfortunately, while the plot looks like it might have had promise with a bigger budget, it fails to satisfy on almost all of those levels.

Dialing back on the try-hard cynicism would have been a huge help and would probably have made the movie easier to watch. Within the first 15 minutes, it's clear that Bill is stressed out. We get it. There's no need to overdo it with inventive cuss words and overly exaggerated stress triggers; at points I found myself wondering if maybe I was missing something.

The movie also could have benefited, and I can't believe I'm saying this, from less women. As a feminist, this is probably the only time I will ever make such a statement, but I mean, really, are we that obnoxious? The only women in the entire film are either braindead yuppies, heavily eye-lined, gold-digging ex-wives, obnoxious gossips or nagging deadweights. I wasn't particularly aware that we were all that useless and annoying, but maybe I'm unobservant. I don't know.

While there were moments that the movie did look promising, overall the film could have used a lot: A less-obvious soundtrack; less awkward silences in between awkward, stilted conversation; better editing. Because of the lack of some of those things — and because there’s an overabundance of corny retro thriller sound effects and music — you’re really just left with no refuge from a wasted two hours.

 

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