The packaging for the psychological thriller Stripped Down basically promises a film that is not typical of the stripper genre. But to be honest, I was merely looking for a film with some gratuitous nudity. I would have considered myself lucky if the movie delivered anything even remotely compelling in terms of story, as long as there was plenty of women naked. For all I care, the movie could have been a dissertation on the works of Carlos Castaneda or an explanation of global tectonics, as long as there were hot chicks taking their clothes of. The one thing I didn't want to deal with was a movie about strippers--typical of other stripper movies or not--that didn't have enough nudity to amuse the horny teenager that still lurks inside my soul.
Written and directed by Elana Krausz, who also stars, Stripped Down takes place over the course of a day at strip club called The Nest. Lily (Krausz) tends bar and runs the club for her abusive boyfriend Larry (Marcus Jean Pirae). A former stripper herself and a recovering alcoholic, Lily plays den mother to the other dancers, including Cara (Lisa Arturo), a hard-drinking party girl on a path of self destruction. On this particular day at the club, IRS Agent Francis (Ian Ziering) has shown up for an audit, which has Larry hiding in fear, leaving Lily to run interference. Things become complicated when teen-age Wren's car breaks down right in front of the club. Wren (Bre Blair) is the stereotypical doe-eyed innocent quickly sucked into the sleazy world of the club, where predators like Larry are constantly looking for naïve girls to exploit. While all of this melodrama is going on, our intrepid IRS Agent suspects that something is amiss with the books, setting into motion a series of contrivances that are balanced out by one ridiculous turn of events after another. Soon, crimes are committed that must be covered up, and Lily must face the grim reality of her surroundings.
Stripped Down is a movie that never exactly starts out that good, manages to maintain its C-grade mediocrity, succumbs to a series of laughable plot twists, and then delivers a "gotcha" twist at the end that almost redeems the whole thing. "Almost" being the operative word, because while the twist ending explains why parts of the movie were so ridiculous--to the point of being unintentionally funny--it never really makes up for the overall execution of the story itself.
Stripped Down wants to be an intelligent psychological thriller set in a strip club, as opposed to an erotic psychological thriller set in a strip club, and you can certainly give the movie points for ambition. But the intelligent part of the psychological thriller is noticeably lacking, and there's nothing erotic to be found, leaving you with a run-of-the-mill thriller that isn't all that thrilling. The film also tries to paint an emotionally and psychologically deep portrait of strippers, which may be effective to anyone who's never spent time in a strip club or not known a stripper; but the strippers in Zombie Strippers have more depth and dimension than those in Stripped Down, which does not bode well for Krausz's movie.
The film has a low budget look that makes it seem like most of it was shot on sets built in a warehouse, leaving Stripped Down with the fake, manufactured look of a production trying to get a dollar's worth of production value out of twenty-five cents. The acting isn't half bad, but the script isn't half good, and the combination makes for performances that can't be effective even if they want to be. All of this makes for a cast of characters you don't really care about in a movie that leaves you feeling nothing. You don't care that Lily is in an abusive relationship, that Larry is a scumbag or if Wren will be seduced by the dark side of the Force. In fact, one of the only true feelings the movie elicits is one of disappointment in the lack of pointless nudity.
Stripped Down is not a truly terrible movie. It does have a moment or two of entertainment, and when the big twist is revealed in the end, it almost makes up for the rest of the film. But neither the reveal nor the mildly entertaining moments--nor the naked bits--add up to enough to make the movie worth watching. Because it wants to be something other than a standard exploitation movie about strippers, but never really achieves its goal, Stripped Down is more of a failure than a success.
Stripped Down is presented in 1.33.1 widescreen. The picture quality is good, with a decent image transfer. The disc double layer format, and it pauses at times during chapter changes.
Stripped Down is presented 2.0 Dolby Digital in English, with optional Spanish subtitles. The sound levels are fine, with an acceptable audio mix and separation between dialog and music.
"Baring It All: The Making of Stripped Down" (7 min.) is the sort of uninspiring featurette that does nothing to sell the movie or make it seem better. There is an audio commentary (that I didn't listen to), and deleted scenes that were no more compelling than the movie itself.
There are some C-grade movies that are at least worth watching when they turn up on cable, and don't really cost you anything other than your time. Stripped Down is not one of these movies.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]