In the desert of Arizona, there sits a town.
That town is named Lakeview, despite the fact that there is no lake nearby. There aren’t many buildings in the town. There’s a service station. There’s a diner. There’s a sheriff’s office. There’s a general store. There are a few houses. Lakeview is a place that people rarely visit and which no one can escape.
There is a sheriff. His name is Cole (Eric Pierpoint) and he spends most of his days in an alcoholic stupor. He’s been depressed ever since his girlfriend, Bridget, was murdered. Now, Bridget’s younger sister, Gordet (Robin Lyn Heath), is living like a feral animal while the local shopkeeper, Sally (Ginger Lynn Allen), is determined to have Cole for herself. Cole’s deputy (Ash Adams) is in love with Sally and wants Cole’s job for his own. That’s a lot of drama for a small town.
Of course, the real drama in Lakeview comes from the fact that the town is run by a group of bikers! The head biker is named Angel (Andrew Divoff). By terrorizing the citizens, Angel and his gang make their own wishes come true without ever asking anyone else if that’s something they would be interested in. Cole is too drunk and depressed to stand up to them. The other townspeople are …. well, I don’t know what their problem is. One assumes that they have to be tough, as they’re living in a harsh and inhospitable desert. But none of them them are willing to stand up for themselves. Maybe they’ve recently moved to Arizona from California and they’re not used to the idea of self-defense. But, for whatever reason, Angel controls Lakeview.
But then the Stranger (Kathy Long) rides up on her motorcycle. Dressed in black leather and wearing a corset that looks like it would actually be really uncomfortable in the desert heat, The Stranger has no name but she does know how to kick ass. She has come to kill all the members of Angel’s gang. Unfortunately, the majority of the gang is out-of-town when The Stranger arrives. So, the Stranger waits in Lakeview and kills who she can. The townspeople, led by Sally, want her to leave before things get too violent. Meanwhile, Cole comes out of his drunken stupor just long enough to notice that the Stranger looks a lot like his dead girlfriend….
1995’s The Stranger was an attempt to a modern-day spaghetti western, with a woman playing the type of mysterious figure who would traditionally have been played by Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson. That, in itself, is a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, The Stranger itself is abysmally paced and the filmmakers seem to have overlooked that, in the best spaghetti westerns, the silent, nameless heroes were usually paired with a more talkative (and often much more amusing) partner. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly had Eli Wallach. Once Upon A Time In The West had Jason Robards. In The Stranger, there’s not really anyone around to fill that role. (Cole is too full of self-pity to be amusing. Gordet spends most of the movie running from one abandoned car to another.) As such, The Stranger becomes fairly grim and slow. Things are only livened up when The Stranger beats people up. Kathy Long was a kickboxing champion and she’s strong enough in the action scenes that it makes up for the fact that she doesn’t have a particularly compelling screen presence. She and Eric Pierpoint also have next to no romantic chemistry, making the whole question of whether or not she’s Bridget’s ghost seem a bit moot.
The best reason to see the film is to watch Andrew Divoff play Angel. Divoff is always a good villain and he’s memorably unhinged in The Stranger. Unfortunately, he’s not in the film as much as the viewer might hope. Watching the film, I half expected the Wishmaster to ask if I wanted Andrew Divoff’s role to be larger. I would have said no while thinking yes. You know how that Wishmaster is.