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  • 15
  • Comedy, Crime
  • 2007
  • 85 mins

Stuck

Stuck

Synopsis

Real-life, low-rent depravity is reimagined as a low-budget film with uncomfortable laughs and visceral thrills. Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) directs, Mena Suvari stars and Stephen Rea mostly bleeds

About

"Out of sight, out of mind." So says Rashid (Russell Hornsby), the drug-dealing boyfriend of Brandi Boski (Suvari), as the pair plots to get rid of Thomas Bardo (Rea). Bardo is a homeless man who has become lodged in the windshield of Boski's car after she accidentally rammed him in the street late at night. Due for promotion to a more responsible position at the nursing home where she works, Brandi wishes that her little problem, now worse for wear and bleeding in the garage, would just go away.

In Stuck, director Stuart Gordon shows the amoral limbo in which all his characters have become trapped, and from which there can be no easy escape - and he presents his story with eyes wide open, ensuring that none of its more unpleasantly confronting elements is out of sight or mind.

When we first meet Bardo, he is already stuck in a desperate downward spiral. Recently axed from his white-collar job and evicted from his apartment, he is treated with casual inhumanity by both an Employment Services bureaucrat (Patrick McKenna) and a beat cop (McKinnon), and has nowhere left to go but the mission shelter on the other side of town.

Before he can get there, he is hit by an intoxicated Boski, and finds himself plunged even deeper into a nightmare of sociopathic irresponsibility and callous cruelty - except that, with his already rather narrow choices now reduced even further, Bardo has only his own will to survive to pit against Boski's will for him to die.

Director Stuart Gordon may previously have drawn his special brand of B-grade excess from Lovecraftian horror (Re-Animator, From Beyond) or SF futurism (Robot Jox, Space Truckers), but with Stuck, he did not have to look beyond the daily news. For while this story exhibits all the tawdry sensationalism and larger-than-life grotesquery of a Coen brothers caper, it is in fact inspired by the real-life case of nurse's aide Chante Jawan Mallard, who in 2001 struck homeless Gregory Glenn Biggs with her car, and then left him in her garage to die rather than go for help.

Working with screenwriter Jon Strysik, Gordon has adapted this story into a darkly comic thriller. The character's names (and in one instance, race) have been changed, and the ending is influenced less by the facts of the case than by the demands of genre, but the mean-spiritedness on show is all too real, right down to the incredible detail that Mallard was said to have had sex with her boyfriend while Biggs was bleeding to death next door.

She may be best known for her more wholesome roles in American Pie 2 (1999) and American Beauty (1999), but Suvari is a revelation in what is possibly her most unflattering role since playing a crystal meth addict in Spun (2002) or a whore in Gordon's own Edmond (2005).

While we first see her caring for the elderly (and doing a good enough job of it that her patients ask for her by name), a succession of unconscionable decisions, a strong sense of denial and an unwillingness to back down from what she has started, soon have her accident escalating into an atrocity.

Watching her stumble through this moral minefield of her own making is akin to staring at a traffic pile-up - except that the collision here, like the ones in Changing Lanes (2002) and Crash (2004), is used to expose a broader ugliness in humanity.

Brandi's behaviour may be pathological but is it, the film asks, so very different from that of her neighbours, her boyfriend, the police, the welfare official, or the landlord, who all choose after their own fashion to look the other way. Or is it indeed so very different from our own wilful blindness when faced with the plight of the downtrodden? These are confronting questions indeed, which only add to the discomfort of this film's undeniable entertainments.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Patrick McKenna, Lionel Mark Smith, Sharlene Royer, Rukiya Bernard, Mena Suvari, Russell Hornsby, Wayne Robson, Stephen Rea, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Wally MacKinnon, RD Reid
  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Screen Writer: Jon Strysik
  • Writer (Story): Stuart Gordon
  • Producer: Robert Katz, Jay Firestone, Ken Gord
  • Photographer: Denis Maloney
  • Composer: Bobby Johnson

In a nutshell

Stuck is disturbing in all the right ways, turning an incredible real-life story of human callousness and suffering into a tawdry entertainment that makes guffawing, sociopathic rubbernecks of us all.

by Anton Bitel

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