Hollow, Yet Thick and Moody: Our Review of ‘Stegman is Dead’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 17, 2017
Hollow, Yet Thick and Moody: Our Review of ‘Stegman is Dead’

David Hyde’s Stegman is Dead follows ex-thief Gus (Michel Eklund). He has to go to his wife Diane’s (Andrea del Campo) family gathering while sneaking away. That’s so he could to steal tapes in the titular character’s (Ross McMillan) 70s style bungalow. Diane’s not happy about this, bellowing ultimatums against Gus. Here, del Campo is the only actress to deliver volume.

The film introduces its mostly male characters with block-like inter titles. It’s a poppy way to in a film that could have underplayed its hi-jinks for its own good. I don’t remember the female characters getting the same introduction, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt nonetheless.

Del Campo makes her co-stars seem soft spoken in comparison, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The strongest scenes in the film’s first half actually involve Gus’ moments with Diane and their kid Angela (Linnea Moffat). So it’s sad to see him whisk away to his job. The person telling him to break into Stegman’s house is his boss Don (Michael Ironside).

Don tells Gus that Stegman has tapes. These tapes implicate them in a previous job a decade before and could send them all to jail. Taking these recordings would be easy for Gus, who was Don’s best thief, but Stegman’s dead, as the title says. And his mansion is swimming with rival thieves and porn actresses like Evy (Bernice Liu).

All of this is taking place within an unnamed wintry town, where Gus reluctantly lives. He didn’t want this, he preferred jewel heists against sheikhs. But this is exciting enough as it is, as the film piles one hurdle in front of Gus after another. There’s another complication.

Evy’s an interesting character, someone who uses her sexuality to get out of her sticky situation. We also see her with her long hair, and is occasionally pants-less. But Evy turns out not to be a porn actress but an assassin who wants to kill Stegman. She fails at her since she finds her mark dead. When that reveal happens her gender is less of a big deal.

Maybe I’m wrong at that end or that I need a female perspective on the film. There is that scene where Evy and Diane talk about Gus. After shooting rival criminals in Diane’s family reunion, she tries to convince Diane that Gus isn’t so bad. And as both a woman and a criminal, she would know what bad guys are like.

Perhaps I see it that way because of the way Gus and Evy talk about their honour codes. Gus treats her as, ahem, one of the boys. He does have a wife and kid, after all, choosing a domestic equal over the newer model. Liu doesn’t let Evy rely on sexuality or gender as a permanent crutch. Instead she uses her killing skills when needed.

Also, Evy is the only person in the film who looks cool in this crime comedy. Gus, on the other hand, has his winter coat. This is not different enough of a spin from the typical suit and tie. It’s almost the uniform that movie criminals have worn since Michael Mann started making movies.

The film also plays on the concept that many criminals are incompetent. Don has surrounded himself with such people. And thus, he talks about the mistakes that he has to clean up. Here we see the film’s biggest flaw, bigger than its rehashed tropes. That it relies too heavily on narration and expository dialogue and under-uses visuals to tell its story.

Looks wise it depicts winter in blues and oranges, which makes the setting clearer and less depressing than real winters. Winter’s a moody season and the film doesn’t convey that atmosphere. Instead closing up on its badly shaven, hollow eyed male characters, its protagonist despondent but not defeated. It finds the absurdity in the situation the same way he does. That’s one way to look at this flawed indie film.

 

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.