Stuck (Canada/United States/United Kingdom, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Stuck Poster

Stuck, like many in the thriller/comedy genre, has difficulty handling the tonal shifts between humor and suspense that exist within its framework. That's not to say the movie fails - there are times when it is bitingly funny and times when its bloodiness can cause a wince and a shudder - but director Stuart Gordon is not adept at blending the two extremes into a cohesive whole. Still, the storyline and its presentation are unique enough that it's difficult not to be intrigued about where all this is going once it starts.

Stuck is loosely based on a 2001 incident in which a woman hit a homeless man with her car. After the impact, he became stuck in her windshield. She drove home, parked the car in her garage, and did not call authorities. He died two hours later and the body was disposed of by a male friend. In Stuart's fictionalized account, the driver is Brandi (Mena Suvari), a nurse's aide at a retirement home who is clubbing one Friday night with her friend, Tanya (Rukiya Bernard). Her boyfriend, Rashid (Russell Hornsby), gives her some "e" to spice up their after-hours party at her place. On the way home, she's on the phone with him when she slams into the newly-homeless Tom (Stephen Rea). Tom has been having a really bad day but it gets substantially worse when he encounters Brandi. Torn up and bleeding profusely with a piece of metal in his side and a fractured leg, he dangles half-in and half-out of Brandi's windshield. Not knowing what to do, she decided to ignore the situation. Once she gets home, she parks the car in the garage, shuts off the engine, and goes inside to have sex with Rashid. The next morning, when Tom tries to get some attention by honking the horn, she clobbers him over the head with a piece of wood, then once again leaves him alone and heads off to work.

Stuck starts out in serious fashion, introducing us to the two primary characters without a hint of tongue-in-cheek irony or cynicism. Tom is shown being evicted from his apartment then waiting for hours for an employment interview that goes awry because of misplaced paperwork. Brandi is depicted as being a little naïve and dumb but hardworking. For most of the film, we are intended to sympathize with Tom, who has been screwed over by the system then left trapped and bleeding in a car because a woman thinks calling 911 will cost her a chance at a job promotion. The problem is that Tom is too weak a character to generate much sympathy. He may not deserve his circumstances, but it's hard to summon a sense of excitement about him obtaining violent retribution against his persecutors. Brandi, meanwhile, comes across as an underprivileged version of Paris Hilton. One can imagine Paris acting this way if a man came through her windshield. Brandi does what any self-respecting ditz would do in this situation: blame the victim. How dare he put her in this position?

There is an underlying current of black comedy woven throughout the fabric of Struck. Take away the blood and the human drama, and the concept is mordantly amusing. Gordon includes several openly comedic scenes, such as a catfight between Brandi and Rashid's other girlfriend (played with nude abandon by Sharlene Royer), as if to remind us not to take things too seriously. And, in an effort not to disappoint horror/thriller fans, there are some gross-out moments. The most cringe-worthy of these shows in slow, loving detail how Tom removes a piece of metal from his side. Then there's a scene where humor meets the grotesque when a little dog starts gnawing on Tom's exposed leg bone.

The thing to admire about Stuck is that, even when it fails to achieve its lofty aim of smoothly melding horror, thriller, and comedy, it nevertheless offers something atypical of what one normally encounters within the darkened confines of a movie theater. This film is different, and that's worth something. Whether it's worth the price of a ticket is a matter of individual taste and whether there's sufficient interest in the premise to excuse the hit-and-miss execution.

Stuck (Canada/United States/United Kingdom, 2007)

Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard
Screenplay: John Strysik
Cinematography: Denis Maloney
Music: Bobby Johnston
U.S. Distributor: ThinkFilm
Run Time: 1:34
U.S. Release Date: 2006-05-09
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity, Drugs)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1