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Review: Plodding ‘Stressed to Kill’ is off the mark

Armand Assante in the thriller "Stressed to Kill."
(Indie Rights)

In craftier hands, the semi-comic revenge thriller “Stressed to Kill” might have been a minor treat: a riff on ‘70s vigilante classics like “Death Wish” that redefines unacceptable outrage for the thin-skinned 21st century. But if writer-director Mark Savage and co-writer Tom Parnell have anything clever to say, their broad characters and crude gags keep them from articulating it.

Bill Oberst Jr. stars as Bill, a perpetually angry middle-aged man who suffers a near-fatal heart attack and is ordered to find a way to relieve stress. Bill’s answer? He stops getting peeved at rude people — like yahoos who look at their cellphones at the multiplex and discourteous drivers — and instead kills the biggest offenders with poison-tipped blow-darts.

Bill gets away with the crime-spree for a while, until he’s tracked down by Paul (Armand Assante), an eccentric police detective who — as it turns out — also isn’t that keen on the modern world’s many idiots.

“Stressed to Kill” is paced way too slowly for a film that relies so much on slapstick and shocking violence. It’s also more than a little disturbing that so many of the folks Bill targets are either obese or ethnic minorities (or both).

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Maybe that’s supposed to be the movie’s big joke: that white-male entitlement has reached the point where dudes think they have the right to destroy anyone who’s just generally annoying. But if so, this tedious picture botches both the setup and the punchline.

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‘Stressed to Kill’

Not rated

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Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood

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