It can be hard for a gritty crime thriller to stand out. There have been so many great movies and television shows every new one has an incredibly high bar to live up to. Every once in a while, there will be an entirely new take on crime films (Pulp Fiction is a great example), but for the most part, they follow a familiar formula. This is generally forgiven since the genre is so popular. Of course, even the best of these movies tend to be forgotten (Mystic River.)
Stray Dolls follows Riz (Geetanjali Thapa), a young woman who has fled from India. She is taken in by Una (Cynthia Nixon) at the Tides Plaza Motel to work as a housekeeper. Una begins to acclimate to her new surroundings, including befriending her new roommate. When she is forced to steal from another hotel room, an unsurprising chain of events begins.
Director Sonejuhi Sinha does a magnificent job with the lightning. Much of Stray Dolls takes place in the sleazy Tides Plaza Motel. Sinha bathes her movie in neon which adds the film’s atmosphere. The characters are dealing with dark present and even darker prospects. The only light that ever enters their troubled lives is artificial and lurid. Sinha also does a great job of never making the setting look glamorous despite the generous splashes of greens and reds.
Stray Dolls moves at an inconsistent pace. It takes a shockingly long time for the rising action to begin. Once it begins, the film escalates very quickly. This leaves little room for Riz and her new friend Dallas (Olivia DeJonge) to develop. This is a stark contrast to how well the film opens with Una. She is introduced and immediately invites intrigue. After a scene involving Riz’s passport, the audience is drawn into the film’s world.
Sonejuhi Sinha directs a crime thriller that at times is a little too familiar. Stray Dolls does some excellent world building through its strong direction and a great performance from Cynthia Nixon. The story is erratic and at times does not feel fleshed out enough. Still, it hits enough of the tried and true tropes to make the it an enjoyable watch.
Stray Dolls will premiere on VOD on April 10th.