Five years after it was made, and two years after it was dumped into the DVD market, talent-starved shaggy-dog thriller Stripped Down crawls into New York for an inexplicable theatrical run. It takes less than a minute for Elana Krausz's passion project to show its truly low-rent colors, using a full arsenal of cheesy video effects to tommy-gun-telegraph that chronology and reality are all afoul. It's a thriller, it's a strip-club soap opera, it's an inner-child reclamation inspirational—it's really unpleasant to look at. Genre-cheapie vet Krausz, who also wrote and directed, plays Lily, an aging beauty whose lover, Larry (Marcus Jean Pirae), runs a popular strip club with the requisite amount of corruption, chicanery, and hair gel. On one fateful day, stiff but smoldering IRS agent Francis (90210 missing person Ian Ziering, who's slumming, which says something) sifts through Larry's books on the club floor, taking in the pseudo-soulful topless dramatics of party girl Cara (Lisa Arturo) and teen runaway Wren (Bre Blair). A rape leads the film into revenge fantasy, which leads to murder and an almost-serviceable noir twist—though not nearly serviceable enough. Somehow Stripped Down takes itself entirely seriously, making it impossible to wince with the proceedings, rather than at them. At least Pirae slinks into his sleazoid cliché with some vigor, providing the chisel-cheeked actor with a belated calling card for better B-grade vehicles to come.
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