Judge Clark Douglas can't think of anything to say. He's...what's the word again?
Our review of Stuck, published November 14th, 2008, is also available.
Two destinies are about to collide.
"Don't worry. I've handled this sort of thing thousands of times."
Facts of the Case
Brandi (Mena Suvari, Domino) is a nursing assistant who is working way too hard in an attempt to get a promotion. She really loves to party, but it's hard to maintain a thrilling nightlife with her stressful work schedule. Far too frequently, she turns to drugs to help her get by. Thomas (Stephen Rea, The Crying Game) is a struggling man who is having some tough times financially. He has just been kicked out of his apartment, and he quickly finds himself wandering the streets a homeless person. Thomas and Brandi do not know each other, but they are about to crash into each other's lives…quite literally.
Brandi is out driving one night, and is doing the usual things one ought not to do when driving at night: listening to loud music, talking on the cell phone, and sampling some illegal substances. Without warning, she accidentally crashes into Thomas, who soars into Brandi's windshield and gets stuck there. Brandi panics, trying to figure out a way to deal with the situation. Unwisely, she does not bring him to a hospital, but instead dumps Thomas (still stuck in the windshield) in her garage. Bad move. Brandi's life quickly starts to spin out of control.
Is it just me, or have there been a lot of films in recent times that have centered on the consequences of making a single bad decision? This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but there sure have been a lot of them. Most of the time, this subject is examined in some sort of gut-wrenching drama that leaves viewers feeling incredibly depressed: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, A Simple Plan, Atonement, and No Country for Old Men come to mind. Great films, each and every one, but they all share a similar tone. Stuck feels a bit different, in that it uses this sort of story as the subject of a very dark comedy.
The humor here is kind of creepy, and occasionally a little odd, but consistently funny. The screenplay by John Strysik may even seem a little mean-spirited at times, but the ruthless elements are nicely balanced by a genuine humanity. There is particular compassion shown toward Thomas, the poor man who spends a large portion of the film trapped in Brandi's windshield. His life is one of small exasperations that grow increasingly important as the plot progresses. Early in the film, Thomas goes to a job interview. The interview is supposed to take place a 1 PM. He isn't invited into the office until 4:30. After a brief discussion, the manager interviewing Thomas pauses for a moment.
Manager: "Sir, I'm afraid you're not in the computer. You'll have to
fill out this form and mail it in."
The level of amusing frustration that informs that dialogue exchange extends to even the darkest and goriest portions of the film. Consider a scene in which Thomas desperately attempts to reach a cell phone in Brandi's car. It's excruciating to a certain degree. Thomas is being forced to cut, tear, and rip numerous parts of his body. Blood and guts spill and drip in a grotesque and horrific manner. Despite this, for some strange reason, the scene subversively plays out like an ultra-violent sequence from a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton flick. It's not just the effort poor Thomas has to give to get the phone, but the terribly unsuccessful conversation he attempts to engage in after he actually gets the phone. This is a movie that wants to make us laugh, cringe, and reflect all at once, and more often than not it darn well succeeds.
The film was directed by Stuart Gordon, who is best known for his work on the entertainingly graphic horror-comedy Re-Animator. Gordon has never quite reached that level of success since that time (though more people should see his excellent adaptation of David Mamet's Edmond). Stuck is being hailed as a "comeback" by many critics and fans, and it's a film that deserves to gain some sort of following. I doubt that it will ever gain the sort of cult status that Re-Animator has attained, but this is a substantial and sharply-crafted film. It's not packaged very well, I must say. Looking at the Blu-ray case, my first assumption was that Stuck was some sort of crummy straight-to-video thriller (we get plenty of those these days), something for less-than-popular actors like Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari to do in their spare time. I was happy to have my assumptions thrown out the window.
Speaking of Rea and Suvari, both are quite good here. Rea is especially sympathetic, constantly maintaining some level of wounded (no pun intended) dignity no matter how horrible his situation gets. Suvari proves that she can carry a film on her own, and also manages to adapt quite nicely to the many different tones that Gordon offers us here. One moment we have dark drama, another moment we get slapstick comedy, and yet another moment turns into some sort of Jerry Springer affair (sans the host of that show, of course). Russell Hornsby also has fun in a role as Suvari's tough-on-the-outside-but-wimpy-on-the-inside boyfriend. Additional humor comes from a variety of off-beat bit roles than turn up on a regular basis.
The hi-def transfer is okay, but the film's budget limitations are definitely showing on this 1080p disc. It's a somewhat ugly-looking movie, which supposedly was an intentional artistic decision, but it doesn't really do the film any favors. Facial detail isn't particularly strong here, and there's a minimal amount of grain here and there, but otherwise everything is decent enough. Sound is also a bit unusual. There are scenes here (especially in the first half of the film) that allow the music to overwhelm the dialogue a bit too much. Additionally, some dialogue scenes that aren't backed up by music occasionally seem less than well-recorded, as dialogue will fade out too much when someone isn't speaking very loud.
A solid batch of extras is included here. First up is an engaging and enjoyable commentary with John Strysik, Stuart Gordon, and Mena Suvari, who amusingly slip between serious commentary and giggly geekiness. Cool stuff. Next up, a handful of featurettes are here for your viewing pleasure. "Driving Forces" (8 minutes) offers an interview with Strysik and Gordon, who offer a brief discussion of the movie. "The Gory Details" (9 minutes) is a slightly over-the-top featurette that gives us a look at the makeup. "Ripped From the Headlines" (17 minutes) is a look at how the film is "art imitating life" and offers an examination of similar real-life situations (including the one this film is based on). Finally, we get 25 minutes of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the Dallas International Film Festival, and a theatrical trailer. I'd really only recommend the commentary, as the featurettes are a bit redundant and not as in-depth as the commentary.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The filmmakers claim they intended to make our allegiances go back and forth between Suvari and Rea, but I don't think they quite succeeded there. I was pretty much rooting for Rea the entire movie and stopped liking Suvari after the first 25 minutes or so. There is also a small handful of scenes that seem a bit out of place. Gordon does a nice job of offering a diverse tone, but there are times when it gets a little too diverse for the film's own good.
Stuck was a nice surprise. This is an effective and sharp little 85-minute ride that is well worth checking out. Recommended.
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Studio: Image Entertainment
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