Judge Adam Arseneau got his head stuck in a Pringles can once. Yes, head.
Our review of Stuck (Blu-Ray), published October 17th, 2008, is also available.
Two destinies are about to collide.
Real life meets thriller in Stuck, a nicely twisted tale of immorality and bad decision-making ripped straight from the headlines. The film gets a bit goofy at times, but Mena Suvari is all kinds of naked in it, so I'm inclined to be, ahem, forgiving.
Facts of the Case
Brandi (Mena Suvari, American Beauty) is a nurse who tends to the old and infirm all day while going out partying and clubbing all night with her boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby). She is good at her job, caring and empathetic to her patients, and she has the chance to be promoted at work. Thing are looking up!
Thomas (Stephen Rea, The Crying Game), on the other hand, is having a bad time of it lately. Unemployed, evicted from his cheap motel, he is left walking the streets, unable to come to terms with how life threw him this particular curveball. He is desperate to turn his life around, but every attempt to only leads to frustration and rejection from society.
After a night of drinking and drugs, Brandi drives home and has an encounter with Thomas, literally. Striking him with her car, she panics and drives away, leaving a bloody and battered Thomas impaled through her windshield. Fearful of the consequences and unwilling to chance losing her promotion, she hides the car—and Thomas—in her garage, hoping the situation will solve itself.
Unfortunately, it does not. Brandi returns later and to her horror, finds a broken Thomas still clinging to life, pleading for her help. But what can she do? The longer she delays reporting the crime, the more confusing and complicated the situation becomes. As Thomas slowly gets his wits back and tries to escape his prison, Brandi's psyche unravels into paranoia and violence…
Believe it or not, Stuck is based on a true story. Back in 2001, a Texas woman struck a man with her car, embedding him into the windshield of her car. High and drunk, she opted not to take the man to receive medical attention, and simply parked the car in her garage, leaving the man to his fate. The story made international headlines due to its extreme bizarreness, and even inspired a few television dramas (Law & Order, CSI) to emulate the tale.
This nugget of gruesome real-life news is the jumping-off point for Stuck, which tries its best to examine the potential motivations for anyone to behave in this fashion. Stuck begins as a taut little thriller, all psychological and dark and sinister, showcasing the worst aspects of human behavior. We get back story on both Brandi and the unfortunate victim of the crime, setting up the incident, and things play out quite badly. While not exactly a sympathetic take, Stuck makes an effort to analyze the hapless Brandi, attempting to explain (if not entirely justify) her actions.
Brandi is a genial, if slightly airheaded young lady; not inherently bad or evil or corrupt, but quickly finding herself capable of great malfeasance. As the events spiral rapidly out of control, she feels angry towards Thomas, impaled and bloody in her windshield, for doing this to her, risking her future and her promotion. Twisted to be sure, but deliciously sinister—this kind of selfishness driven by shock, fear, and immaturity actually feels like a plausible explanation for such atrocious behavior. Actress Mena Suvari pulls off the role quite well, with a nice balance between doe-eyed incredulity and maliciousness.
As for poor Thomas, we see him slowly degenerate from an unemployed businessman to a full-fledged homeless drifter, handful of clothes tucked under his arm, pushing a shopping cart. It is a particularly cruel touch on his character, making us sympathetic to him before he even gets smacked by an automobile. It really isn't his day at all. Veteran actor Stephen Rea at first feels horribly miscast here, but his bloodhound sagginess eventually warms to the role, mournful like a lost dog.
Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Edmond) is perhaps best known in horror circles for his H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, and he puts that creeping dread to good work here—there are quite a few moments of mouth agape shock and disbelief as the events play out in Stuck. Somewhat disconcertingly, Stuck is also quite funny in a Coen Brothers black comedy sort of way, but it feels radically at odds with the psychological tension so carefully cultivated earlier in the film. The longer the film goes on, the sillier it gets, more unbelievable and drastic and slapstick, until it descends into a mess of…well, more on that later.
On disc, the presentation is decent, with a transfer exhibiting washed-out (but not unpleasantly so) colors, mediocre black levels and a sharp level of detail. The transfer is clean, with no print damage or compression artifacts noticeable. For audio, both a stereo and 5.1 surround presentations are included. The 5.1 takes the cake here, with its overly dramatic score filling all channels and environmental sounds captured accurately. Bass is moderate to good, with clear dialogue. The stereo presentation lacks the same fidelity and punch as the surround—it sounds tinny and thin.
Extras are nonexistent; we get a trailer and that's it.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Where Stuck loses audiences is in the second half, where the "inspired by a true event" part of the narrative ends, giving way to the "crazy what the hell" moments. We detach drastically from anything even remotely resembling common sense as Stuck descends predictably into a clichéd thriller, full of black comedy where a disproportionate amount of people die unrealistic deaths and crazy psychopaths try to murder innocent people, and where revenge is a dish best served with a flaming gas canister.
This descent into goofiness doesn't ruin Stuck outright, but it gimps it something fierce, preventing it from being the taut, psychological drama it so yearns to be.
A dreadful real life-inspired tale turned schlock horror film; Stuck has the right idea, but botches the execution by giving up on the psychological drama and descending into ill-timed comedic sequences and clichéd horror tropes. The final effect is far from a disaster, but the wasted potential is disheartening.
A solid rental if you set your expectations accordingly. Stuck is both thrilling and hilarious, but unfortunately never manages to do both at the same time.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
Review content copyright © 2008 Adam Arseneau; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.