EmptyOpens: Friday, May 30 (ThinkFilm)
Cult filmmaker Stuart Gordon ("Re-Animator") has found more inspiration from the tawdry true-life story that inspired his latest film than might have been expected.
While "Stuck" inevitably feels padded in its elongated fictional depiction of a horrific incident -- involving a woman who hit a man with her car and then refused to help him even while he was trapped in her windshield -- it has enough sustained tension, dark humor and quiet social commentary to make it a strong candidate for B-movie cult status.
The effective screenplay at first alternates between depicting the contrasting situations of its two main characters: Brandi (Mena Suvari), a retirement home caregiver who spends her free time partying hard with her drug-dealing boyfriend, Rashid (Russell Hornsby); and the unemployed and newly homeless Tom (Stephen Rea), who faces frustration everywhere he turns, even when he tries to spend the night on a park bench.
Sadly wandering the streets with his shopping cart, Tom is hit dead-on by a drugged out, cell phone-distracted Brandi and winds up stuck in her car windshield, badly injured and bleeding heavily. Although she starts to go for help, Brandi, worried that the trouble she'll get in will interfere with her impending job promotion, panics and heads home, leaving the car, with Tom still attached to it, in her garage.
Thus begins a series of increasingly desperate attempts by Brandi to cover her tracks and Tom to get free before he bleeds to death.
Needing to fill out a feature-length running time, Gordon and screenwriter John Strysik provide various plot digressions, mostly involving Brandi's contentious relationship with the deceptively tough-talking Rashid, that reduce the narrative momentum.
But the film really comes together in the final reel, when the cat-and-mouse game between Tom and his blandly amoral tormentors escalates in dramatic tension and violence. These sequences well showcase the skills of the director, who is forced to tell a good part of his story within extremely narrow confines.
Suvari brings unexpected shadings to her psychotically self-absorbed Brandi ("Why are you doing this to me?" she screams to her impaled victim at one point), while Rea invests his character with the sort of quiet determination in the face of adversity that makes his later physical derring-do all the more credible.
Production: Image Entertainment/Regal Entertainment.
Cast: Stephen Rea, Mena Suvari, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Lionel Mark Smith.Director-story: Stuart Gordon. Screenwriter: John Strysik. Executive producers: John F.S. Laing, Tim McGrath, Andrew Arno.
Rated R, 85 minutes.