Director: Vin Diesel
Screenwriters: Vin Diesel

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


A self-described “multicultural Saturday Night Fever,” Strays is a nineties and quintessentially New York version of a macho cruiser’s coming-of-age. With abundant charm and formidable wit, Strays marks the arrival of a truly gifted writer/director/actor, Vin Diesel.

Frustrated by the repetitious grind of one-night stands and aimless hustlings, studly drug dealer Rick (played by Diesel) is looking for meaning and intimacy in his life. Like his testosterone-tweaked buddies, Rick is a “stray”—lacking a traditional family structure and wrestling subconsciously with the psychological bruises inflicted by his father’s absence. Shielding any vulnerability under the toughened cloak of detachment, Rick has administered his life with a deliberate effort to avoid reliance on anyone or anything. But things are about to change.

When Rick meets Heather, a corn-fed walking-talking “girl next door,” he suddenly perceives a new avenue and an opportunity for an open, committed relationship. Though the chemistry between the couple is immediately charged, Rick’s street cheek and volatile aggression flare, threatening to extinguish their relationship before it begins. Trying to assimilate into Heather’s world, Rick takes heat from his perpetually adolescent cohorts, whose ambitions are restricted to riding fast, toking slow, and ditching hard. However, like his childhood alter ego, Ferdinand the Bull, Rick is only a fighter by training and ripe for the transition to a softer, sweeter sensibility.

What makes Strays special is its carefully crafted and utterly credible realization of place and character. In revealing the tender underpinnings and transparent denials of the hardened of heart, Strays digs the dirt out of the fearsome burden of masculinity and the arduous road to change. Crass, funny, and startlingly sincere, Vin Diesel’s Strays is exceptional filmmaking.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

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