Credit where credit's due: there are times during Stripped Naked where the movie started to work. All things considered, it ranks pretty high among the self-produced, direct-to-video efforts I've sat through for DVDTalk, but as the film continues, a host of extremely unlikable characters and a lagging pace keep the movie from amounting to more than a missed opportunity.
The film opens in the middle of a fight between a stripper named Cassie (Sarah Allen) and her thick-skulled boyfriend named Jack (Jon Cor). He throws her purse out of his truck window and pulls over, telling her to go get it, then drives away when she gets out to do so. She walks to a gas station and pesters a guy to get him to lend her his phone, but before he cracks, another vehicle pulls up, and he pushes her down into the seat well, out of sight. The mysterious stranger hops out, and the two parties exchange duffel bags. It sounds like nothing until both sides fire guns on the other. Cassie eventually peeks out and discovers three dead bodies and two bags: one stuffed with crystal meth, and the other with $90.000 (or is it $180,000? I swear it was $90, but the DVD art says otherwise) in banded cash. She steals the dead man's car and drives back home, already dreaming of a better life (in Paris), but keeping her secrets safe for a couple of days while she waits for a passport turns out to be a challenge.
Writers Christine Conradt and Ian Driscoll have dreamed up a Simple Plan/Fargo-esque series of twists, reveals, and double-crosses, except they've traded icy plains for bisexual strippers. Nothing wrong with that, except that director Lee Demarbre can't quite muster the dizzying momentum required to make a double-cross gleefully satisfying. There's nothing wrong with illustrating how the blandly dapper right-hand man (Mark Slacke) of the unremarkably doughy mob boss (Paul Rainville) manages to track Cassie, but it's not witty or exciting, it's just logical. Twists need to twist into other twists and twist again for a film like this to be fun enough to overlook any flaws, and Stripped Naked is only mildly diverting, so I am left to focus on Demarbre's lame Paris dream sequences and the way he cuts away from the gunshots because the production can't afford squibs. I did a double-take when I saw on IMDb that Demarbre is responsible for the brilliantly titled but woefully disappointing cult film Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter, but even if this is leaps and bounds above that agonizing mess, he still doesn't have enough energy or vision behind the camera.
The one thing that buoys the film through the entire running time is that he has assembled a cast of solid actors. None of them are destined to be breakout stars, but if any one of them started scoring consistent supporting work, I'd be perfectly pleased to see them. Linden Ashby is a pretty good substitute for John C. McGinley (glancing at his IMDb, whoever cast him as Van Wilder Sr. deserves a gold star), imbuing his strip club owner character with a lightly comedic, surprisingly friendly attitude. Tommie-Amber Pirie is refreshingly hate-free as Cassie's roommate Jade, who pouts when Cassie rebuffs her but generally hangs around looking both cute and concerned. Jon Cor bears a distracting resemblance to Jason Mewes, which may or may not aid in his skill at making his completely oblivious moron boyfriend character less aggravating than he should be. Even Mark Slacke's underwritten villain Roddy is mildly enjoyable thanks to the way Slacke plays him.
Too bad the movie's agreeability only makes it tolerable rather than legitimately worthwhile. I never wanted to scream at Stripped Naked, but I also couldn't care. All of the characters (with the potential exception of Ashby's) are so wrapped up in their own thoughts and dreams that it's hard to want anyone to end up with the money. I wanted the money. What the hell are these people going to spend it on? And Cassie is the worst of all, turning into a totally rude and unlikable person as everyone piles on, and both the selfish and the thoughtful get the exact same horrible treatment from her. Adding insult to injury, it all concludes with a completely useless, boring ending that basically serves to let Demarbre off the hook to come up with a real finale. Plus, it emphasizes the fact that the other 75 minutes of the movie don't have any stripping in them. At least Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter delivered on the title front.
I'd seen the cover for Teenage Hitchhikers, but I must not have been looking very closely; when I glanced at Stripped Naked in the DVDTalk Screener Pool a few months later, I thought maybe Anchor Bay was coming out with a whole line of vintage T&A flicks. I grabbed Stripped Naked without really looking at it. Well, turns out Teenage Hitchhikers is by Media Blasters and not Anchor Bay, and Stripped Naked is from 2009. D'oh. The back cover is clearly modern, and there is no insert.
The Video, and Audio
For whatever reason, Stripped Naked gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that ranks as one of the most pleasing SD-DVD transfers I can remember seeing as of late. Colors are strong, details look crisp, and there's even a sense of depth. No complaints.
Dolby Digital 5.1 (or, according to the packaging, just "Digital 5.1") occasionally exhibits adequate directionality, although the sound effects used to create the mix all have that slightly weightless, "low-budget/direct-to-DVD movie" feel to them that takes away from the overall experience. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.
None, other than the original trailer. Trailers for Growth, Abandoned, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, I Spit on Your Grave, and UFC DVD play before the main menu.
Unless you're the president of the Lee Demarbre fan club -- and I admit, the guy has a bit of a cult following, so, you know, you might be -- I'd say you can safely skip it.
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