I’ve always wanted to make a movie, maybe not act in one, but be a part of the process in some way. I admire those who have gone on and actually done it. To get a movie made is no easy task. For someone to actually have gone through the development and actually have completed a feature is commendable. I always have to bear this in mind when I review films. Even films I don’t personally like are still works of art and a credit to the resolve of the filmmaker. That being said, Stranglehold does not rank highly in the films I have seen this year.
Stranglehold is a low-budget sci-fi thriller brought to us by first-time writer and director Joshua Gollish. Gollish has primarily been known for his camera and technical expertise, fields in which he has demonstrated a remarkable talent.
The film is about a small “cell” of aliens who have been trying to peacefully co-exist on Earth, having found their own home world overcrowded (I think…). Most are in hiding as they are being hunted to extinction by another, more violent, group of aliens who want Earth for themselves. The hunters are led by a ruthless, vicious leader called Ramos (Jamie Lane). The entire backstory is actually a little hazy and wasn’t specifically explained. The film is told from the perspective of its main character, Remi Martin (Kevin Makely) and follows him as he tries to figure out a way to save his own life as well as the lives of his fellow cell members. And yes, I know, they named the main character after a cognac….
The acting is not very good. Besides Makely and Luke Edwards, who are the best of the bunch, most of the characters deliver their lines very stiffly and with little direction. At some point it even seems as if they are reading directly from the script being held out of view. The music is at times out of place. In one particular scene the music is overly interfering and drowns out the dialogue while in another scene the song choice seemed way out of place. However, I thought the cinematography was good and the film was shot pretty well, utilizing good camera positioning and lighting.
The plot, though not told very well, is fresh and would have made for a unique sci-fi story. With no special effects, the narrative allows for the drama to unfold very terrestrially. Remi Martin calls this out in one scene where he is insulted that the violent aliens are hunting him with human weapons. Clever exposition reveals that they can’t fight back with alien tech because that would draw the attention of the military. This little exchange is a great way to explain in-story the lack of CGI or expensive special effects. I feel this story could’ve been told better had more time and effort been spent in the audition process, or in allowing a more seasoned writer to polish the script. As it stands, the plot moves slow and is, at times, boring, with what should be riveting action scenes ruined by subpar performances.
I wanted to see this film because the premise sounded interesting, but this film failed to live up the potential of what it could have been. I think Joshua Gollish is a very talented man and I hope this film doesn’t impede his development. I only hope that he continues to learn and exercise his creativity while he ponders his next project.