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Stuck (2008)
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by Jay Seaver

"Stuart Gordon shows human amorality as monstrous."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: "Stuck" is based on a true story that made headlines a few years back, although much-beloved cult filmmaker Stuart Gordon has changed almost all the details to make a feature-length film out of it. That's fine, though; the real story was likely not nearly as much fun.

We're introduced to Brandi (Mena Suvari) and Tom (Stephen Rea). Tom is unemployed and his landlord intends to change the locks on his apartment as soon as he's out the door for a job interview, rendering him homeless; Brandi has just been informed she's up for a supervisor's position, but that might just be a ploy to get her to work a second Saturday in a row. While Brandi is unwinding at a club with friend Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) and (drug-dealing) boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby), Tom is learning the ins and outs of homelessness. As Tom is making his way to a shelter, he's hit by Brandi's car. Rather than call the police, she drives back home - with Tom still lodged in her windshield.

To this point, the movie has followed the actual events reasonably closely, although with many of the details changed. Things start to diverge at this point, but the core of what Gordon found appealing in this story is crystal-clear throughout - and despite Gordon's history of gory horror flicks, it's not Tom's broken and bloodied body. Gordon and screenwriter John Strysik see a parable about the inability of people to look outside their own immediate interests - not just Brandi, but nearly every other person in the film. Just about the only exception to this is a homeless man who shares a drink with Tom and sets the new guy up with a shopping cart of his own. Tom is on the receiving end of the callousness most of the time, but even he will look at a waiting room full of people who likely also had appointments at specific times and ask why he can't have his interview right away.

Gordon and Strysik don't pass up easy targets when they present themselves, and sometimes it is a little obvious - Brandi whining "why are you doing this to me?", the family of immigrants next door who don't call the police for exactly the expected reason. That's part of the point, though - the morally right course of action is frequently plain to see, but people do what is best for themselves anyway. They do excel at making the lecture entertaining, though. Time and again, they push things just far enough for it to be funny as well as just appalling, and they work a lot of suspense from the almost completely immobile Tom's attempts to free himself and draw attention.

Ultimately, the film works in large part because of its cast. Mena Suvari builds up a bit of sympathy for Brandi and then does a fine job of losing it more slowly than might be expected; it's easy to see her as shocked and feeling like she's been forced into a bad situation for a while. Stephen Rea is fine, although he's speaking in an absolutely unplaceable accent and there's just so much you can do stuck in a windshield for two thirds of the movie. The movie's MVP is clearly Russell Hornsby, who seems to mine comedy gold from almost every scene he appears in, whether awkwardly being caught by his girlfriend with another woman or implying to the audience that he perhaps isn't quite the tough guy he's presented himself as.

Does the ending go a little over the top? Yes, certainly. But then again, this isn't a film where subtlety is called for: If you're going to talk about how all too often our least noble and most selfish impulses control us, shades of grey and less-than-horrible consequences aren't going to get the job done.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16414&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/16/08 14:43:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2008 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/26/19 Ajpwales Very good thriller. Well acted. 5 stars
8/07/17 danR The premise is the epitome of absurdity, horror, and humor; and good acting makes it work. 4 stars
10/12/08 Matt C Wow, i liked it, but NBF is right. She even told a friend she hit "this white guy" laughing 4 stars
6/17/08 Sully Good,tight,horror fick.Economical story telling, more directors should take note. 4 stars
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  30-May-2008 (R)
  DVD: 07-Oct-2008


  DVD: 07-Oct-2008

Directed by
  Stuart Gordon

Written by
  John Strysik

  Mena Suvari
  Stephen Rea
  Russell Hornsby
  Rukiya Bernard

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