The choice was simple, watch a fantasy crime film about supernatural earthbenders or watch the new Tyler Perry movie that is 2 hours long that he filmed in less than a week…the choice was simple. You would think that with a better immigration system that we would screen immigrants for the basics. Diseases, criminal records, mythical powers but that is how we got the film Stray.
Stray begins with a routine homicide call which turns into so much more when a body is recovered that is seemingly burned alive with no trace of a fire. Detective Murphy (Christine Woods) is sent to investigate a series of family murders with supernatural elements and her only link to the killing is a young girl named Nori (Karen Fukuhara) who seems to be in the middle of it. Murphy must sort through the perils of her own life and solve a case that even the most experienced detective can’t even begin to understand.
When it comes to Stray, there is a clear love/hate relationship with the movie. The primary issue seems to be there is no clear focus on what genre the film is trying to succeed in. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good elements to like but it’s the biggest failure is not expanding on them to make it a bigger part of the experience. With a runtime barely over 80 minutes, this is a pretty short film and sadly more time is given to police movie tropes than explaining the fantasy elements of the story which is clearly the only thing that works.
Karen Fukuhara isn’t a very experienced actress and it shows. I understand you have to give somewhat of a pass for smaller films but she just wasn’t selling the emotion that the story needed her to sell. It isn’t all doom and gloom however, Cinematographer Greg Cotton does some great work with the setting while playing with the darkness and color of the film. The effects are pretty good and done in a way where the budget isn’t exposed, and while they don’t go as far as they should with the story, it is enough to keep you engaged just enough to want more.
Stray is a decent enough movie but desperately needs more polishing before it can be considered good.