|Page 1 of 8:||       |
|Index||74 reviews in total|
When does an ordinary person become monstrous; what is the trigger;
when is the fatal turning point? Is fear an acceptable reason for
selfishness, brutality and a headlong flight from responsibility?
Gordon deals admirably with this dilemma using a crafty balance of horror and humor in a bloody film about a hit & run driver who becomes inhuman while the victim remains human and humane through relentless pain, shock, & bad luck.
Both Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari offer up fine performances as a middle class guy down on his luck and a hard working and hard playing young woman in a tough and demanding job.
9/16/2008 Addendum: IMPORTANT! This review applies ONLY to the
94-minute FESTIVAL cut of this film. I see that the DVD version is only
85 minutes ... do NOT buy or rent it based on this review.
* * * *
It's movies like this one that will keep me going to the 'Midnight Madness' program of the Toronto Film Festival forever. I saw it at last year's, and have been looking forward to a repeat viewing ever since. I love it when a low-budget film can soar above the corporate mega-movies on a clever script and a cast that gives it 110%, and this is definitely one of those movies. It gave me everything I could want in such a film sex, drugs, and violence, with some jet-black humor for dessert. (Note to PG-13ers: AVOID!) It probably won't make a big splash when it's released theatrically, but I'd put money on it achieving cult status after coming out on video.
This is easily the best work that director Stuart Gordon has done since REANIMATOR I'd go so far as to say that it's his best ever. It's a suspense-horror-comedy full of situations that make you laugh and groan at the same time one that's also refreshingly NOT top-heavy with f/x. The Midnight Madness program has a firm policy that a film has to grab your attention within the first 15 minutes in order to qualify for inclusion, and this film meets that requirement with room to spare. What's more, it never drags for a minute.
The story is based on the bizarre true life tale of a woman who hit a homeless man with her car and let him slowly bleed to death while stuck in her windshield. Gordon calls this "the way the story should have turned out." The homeless man in this case is played by the reliable Steven Rea, whose sad eyes give him a head start on eliciting sympathy. He's newly homeless, and his fall to the bottom is cleverly punctuated by him repeatedly hearing a timeworn cliché uttered by a succession of unsympathetic characters. The woman is played by American BEAUTY's Mena Survari, and this is her richest role since that one. She finally gets to play a character who actually evolves over the course of a film, instead of just doing 9-5 duty in another eye candy role.
I can't overemphasize how impressive the bang for the buck that Gordon gets with this film is. He also makes an amusing Hitchcock-style cameo (one that I'll bet Hitch himself wouldn't have minded making). There was genuinely enthusiastic applause at the screening I went to when the movie ended and the cast (except for Rea) came on for a lively Q & A. If movies lately seem a bit too tame for you, this is very likely just what the doctor ordered.
THE FILM Stuck is a confusing film. On the one hand, the film plays as a deliciously nasty piece of black comedy, piling inhumanity on top of inhumanity and coating it all with sanguine and self-immolation. On the other hand, I have been assured by an industry friend that the film is not a comedy at all, but rather a profoundly confused wouldbe thriller full of inexcusable racist stereotypes. As the DVD has nothing in the way of special features, I have no way of knowing what Auteur/infant terrible Stuart Gordon actually had in mind.
The premise is ripped straight from the strange-but-true headlines. A nurse hits a homeless man while driving drunk. She hits him so hard that he ends up lodged in her windshield. Instead of taking the man to a hospital, she drives home, leaving the man to bleed to death in her garage while she goes inside and has sex with her boyfriend.
Gordon's take on the story follows the real world events quite loosely, changing most everything after the initial crash. In reality, the man died 2 hours after being hit. Here he goes through days of misadventures.
These changes are a point of contention for many. In real life the victim was white and the killer was black. In the film, the victim is white and the killer is a white-trash Caucasian who can easily be read as an extremely stereotyped black woman who has simply been bleached.
And this is where things get confusing. Everyone in the film is stereotyped. There is a "magic negro" who is so broad that even Steven King might find it offensive. A completely subordinate black best friend. Side-of-a-barn cruel police officers. An illegal immigrant family fueled by foolish machismo. An effete gay man walking a fluffy dog. A drug dealing, gun toting, cheating black boyfriend. Helpless, brain dead elderly. And, at the center of it all, a perfect example of "the noble poor." The acting from Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari (who also acts as producer) is quite good but the writing is either totally incompetent or brilliantly subversive.
Many of the elements are incongruous. And, considering that Gordon's last film was the vastly underrated Edmond* I am inclined to believe that the film is intended to be funny. I know I laughed a lot. But, at this same time, it is entirely possible that the film is inadvertently hilarious. The whole thing is very ambiguous if you don't know Gordon's filmography.
And perhaps, it is this very tension that makes the movie worthwhile. It's a horrifically mean spirited film. So dark that it makes Very Bad Things look like Adams Family Values. This bleakness is perhaps confusing some people to the larger social context of the film.
Ultimately, in my mind, the film is a character study about a woman who selflessly works for rich white folks all day and engages in black culture all night. This internal tension makes her a type of Uncle Tom, regardless of her actual skin pigment. The film is about how good people are capable of evil and about how we are all culpable for the crimes of those we look down on.
I've always been a Stuart Gordon fan and this film cements his status for me. Unlike most filmmakers, who cool with time Gordon is on fire. His last 3 films** might well be the best of his entire career. I can't wait to see what he does next.
DVD: There are no special features, but the picture is reasonably clean and the menus are nice. I love Gordon's commentary tracks. It is sorely missed here.
CONCLUSION: Stuck is not a film for everyone. Many will find it too grisly and mean spirited. Others might even find it racist. But, for a select few, the film is a hilariously painful piece of social commentary schadenfreude. A theater of cruelty, but a brilliant one.
The very fact that I can see how someone might be horribly offended, but also find it to mean the exact opposite is enough reason to recommend the film. A movie to watch and discuss over coffee.
FILM: A- DVD: D+
*In my mind the best David Mamet adaptation to date. ** King of Ants, Edmond, Stuck
Watching "Stuck" is not a comfortable experience. Beyond the obvious
gut-wrenching events of the film, it will make you wonder, "What would
I do in a similar situation?" Stuart Gordon's direction is excellent,
as is John Strysik's screenplay. Together they set the stage perfectly
for what could easily be an unbelievable series of events. Such is
their skill in their respective arenas that you never once feel that
the story is contrived.
Mena Suvari and Stephen Rea both deserve kudos as well. It would be easy to lose interest or feel trapped (in a bad way) given the unavoidably claustrophobic nature of the story. Both Rea and Suvari's performances, however, are so fantastic that my interest never waned.
Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, and Carorlyn Purdy-Gordon add the details to this world that bring it all together. Russell and Rukiya, as Suvari's boyfriend and friend respectively, are fantastic. Purdy-Gordon's turn as Mena Suvari's boss gives us just the right amount of evil-employer without delving into satire.
All in all, a fantastic movie.
Stuart Gordon made a masterpiece in Re-animator, and carved a career in
the eighties out of schlock horror with a heavy foot in satire. In the
nineties he managed to lose his way a little but the naughties has seen
him experimenting with genres, providing his most interesting work to
date. Edmond was a lurch to the left with Mamet's difficult play, but
this film returns him to a genre he's more familiar with, yet the tone
is firmly planted in reality.
Some reviewers have suggested that Stuck is simply a thriller but I disagree. Certainly there is a grotesque sort of suspense, yet Gordon has managed to provide humanity to his victim, and show us the type of system that puts so many to the street.
It also shows us how a relatively normal reaction of fear and shock can mislead even the most well meaning person into a situation which climbs out of control with devastating consequences. It will also reinforce the fact that we never know how people will react until placed into a difficult situation, ourselves included.
The film never feels forced. You can believe that this actually happened, (based loosely on a true story) though this takes events to the extreme.
Stephen Rea gives a constrained performance, (pun intended) as the proverbial bug. You'll feel his pain and scream for justice.
I hope Stuart Gordon continues taking risks. His best work may be ahead of him.
STUCK is one of those films that creeps up on you, teases you into
thinking a comedy is in the making, then slowly reveals itself as what
seems to be an exposé of our current manner of getting through life, of
competing in the workplace, and of self absorption to the point of
endangering those around us. The fact that the film is based on a true
story as adapted by director Stuart Gordon and transformed into a
bitingly satirical screenplay by John Strysik increases the impact of
this well-crafted little low budget film. Watch it once for the gritty
content of the story, then watch it again to appreciate all of the very
dark (and very pointed!) humor in what at first appears to be a grisly
Brandi Boski (Mena Suvari) works as a Nurse's Aid in a nursing home of senile elderly patients, giving some of the finest care for those entrusted to her talents. Brandi's compassionate work is noted by the supervisor Peterson (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) who manages to trick Brandi into an even heavier work schedule by suggesting a raise in position. Excited about her possible promotion Brandi and her working partner Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) celebrate that evening with Brandi's boyfriend/drug supplier Rashid (Russell Hornsby) who gives Brandi a pill of Ecstasy and the mixture of the drug with the alcohol creates a mess of Brandi's mind.
The parallel story involves one jobless Thomas Bardo (Stephen Rea) who lives in a tenement, is evicted because of past due rent, and becomes a street person, treated with cold (but satirical) mechanical responses at the Department of Unemployment. Left to sleep in the park he is befriended by another homeless person, given a shopping cart, and makes his way toward a midnight mission.
Brandi cum altered thought processes drives home, hits Thomas who comes sailing through her windshield badly injured, and out of fear and distress Brandi merely takes the 'stuck' Thomas home to park him in her garage, knowing that her boyfriend Rashid will help her. Thomas is conscious, unable to climb out of the glass of the crushed windshield and begs for help. How the stranded and injured Thomas is treated by the desperate but self-centered Brandi, by the frightened but macho Rashid, and by neighbors who fear intervention because of reporting an incident that would encourage police intervention and threaten their deportation as illegal immigrants results in an ending that shows how 'justice' can prevail!
The cast is first rate - especially Rea, Suvari, Hornsby and Bernard. The direction is tight and maintains credible characters in incredible situations and holds the audience attention every moment. This is a fine example of how a low budget film, in the hands of pros, can be more successful that the big budget, less thoughtful movies that crowd our marquis. Grady Harp
I thought I would give it ten minutes, no expectations whatsoever, but
I found myself completely captivated after five minutes and I had an
absolutely pure, simple movie experience, like movies are supposed to
be. Simple plot, excellent acting, interesting yet plausible
characters. Like a "Fargo" light.
I read in a chat room that Mena Suvari's character was not believable, but I strongly disagree. One of the strengths of the movie was, that despite the lead character's horrid actions, she felt very real; a young, unintelligent woman, who completely lacked any understanding of true values, but who still was convincingly portrayed as a person with a warm heart and an appreciated colleague. I do not know how she pulls it off... just brilliant. Also Stephen Rea was great in every scene, but did not have a very challenging part to play. Not a single scene was too long or too short or unnecessary. Just an exquisite little piece! Truly enjoyable and disturbing!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just saw this movie at the AFI Dallas Film Festival (with star Stephen Rea and the scriptwriter in attendance), and it is excellent! When I read of the premise to the film, I HAD to see it - I was living in Fort Worth at the time of the real incident that inspired the film. Note that "Stuck" is not the true story, but instead a thriller that uses that story as a jumping-off point; as such, the film is free to diverge from that original truth to tell its own grisly and intriguingly moralistic tale. And it delivers the goods: it's suspenseful and believable throughout, with great work by both Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari, surprising plot twists, some REALLY painful stuff to watch (including a wicked girlfight scene and an oh-my-God scene involving a Pekinese dog), and the combination of bloody visuals and dark humor for which director Stuart Gordon is renowned. Kudos also for the sly opening credit sequence, with a profanity-laden rap track played over old people slowly taking drugs (their medications) in an old folks' home. This film is better than most Hollywood thrillers of recent times, and would make an excellent double-feature with "Misery". Highly recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this DVD in the Library and I took it home just because I saw
Suvari in the cover. I liked her in AB so I wanted to see her again.
The fact that I read there about this being a "darkly humorous"
thriller also helped. But I got more than I had bargained for--and I'm
not even referring to that dandy bed scene of the beginning. For
starters, there's nothing funny here, despite what the DVD cover
says--and yet I couldn't help but LOL at some shocking scenes; like for
ex. when Brandi hits Tom in the head with a rod or log, to make him
stop honking the car. This is actually a sad, tragic, story; but mostly
a psychological thriller, or a psychological study, about people put in
unexpected, dramatic, even tragic, dilemmas and how they react to it.
An overworked, X-gulping nurse and party girl hits with her car an OOW Project Manager and takes him home, stuck in her windshield. There she tries to get rid of him, with the help of her drug pusher boyfriend. That's the story. Great acting by Suvari, who carries the flick on her shoulders-with much help from her firm, expressive, facial features--as Rea (as the PM) doesn't have much to do but to suffer all kind of ignominies, and put the sad eyes of a battered dog, while Hornsby acts, rather overacts, portraying every ugly stereotype about his people (I've always wondered why people do that--are you listening, De Niro?). The cinematography's decent, so the pacing & editing. But this is a action driven flick, so we'll stay mostly focused on the going ons, neglecting much of the rest. I don't even recall if there was some musical score, which I guess helps making my point.
The central idea in the film is how a human being, any human being, can go from doing the most selfless, caring, acts to commit the most heinous crimes without fundamentally changing characters, remaining the same person, as long as he/she finds a justification for the deed. (a truth that could be applied also to good, nice Germans exterminating entire populations "for the good of the nation"). I'm sure that if Brandi had gotten away with her plan to burn the garage and get rid of both men she would have been next day at her job, providing her loving care to her patients, as she strongly felt that was her calling in life. So, there is no character change in her in the film. Until the moment when, pinned by her car, she tries to shoot dead Bardo she is still the devoted nurse of the beginning. That's her calling, how she sees herself and for that reason she clings to the idea of staying the course no matter what. She sees the accident as an irritant rather than as a tragedy, which threatens her apostolate and that's why she indignantly screams to Bardo "Why are you doing this to me?". The fact is, she sees herself as doing much good for others to tolerate to be interrupted, specially by as someone worthless as him. It isn't the money what interest her-she mentions it to Rashid only to get into his wavelength--but her promotion to greater responsibility in her Earthly mission, even if it means taking a heavier workload. (remember her joy when writing her expected assignment on a paper.)
Good concept; good development. Not that Stuck is flawless. In fact I see two flaws in the plot, having to do both with the male characters. First, Bardo. He says he's a PM, but he doesn't have a clue. He has been two years out of work and he isn't even in the computer. Granted, such a thing may occur to all of us, but usually when you have just entered the system, or shortly after, not years later. At this point he should have been on first name basis with employees in the UO; he should have become an habitué from the day he found himself OOW. Yet, years later he's still a stranger. How he spent all that time anyway? Then, even knowing that he's bound to be evicted anytime, he hasn't done the necessary arrangements for when the occasion arrive. He doesn't even know that he could go to a shelter for the homeless, which shows he didn't do any pertinent research; he didn't even inquire where he could go for help. So can you blame anyone for laying off such an inept PM? No wonder people see him as useless. The second flaw relates to Rashid. I don't understand why Brandi is his girlfriend, as there's nothing bringing them together. She could always pay for her X fix with sex, she didn't need to be his lover, even less cling to him to the point of violently expelling his other mistress from his apart.. My guess is, he was made his lover just to get him aboard; it was probably thought that she couldn't extort him into lending her a hand and if he was only her dealer. So, this is a plot contrivance; but, as there was no serious effort made to better justify or base their "relationship"-on common things for ex.-the weakness of the forced subplot appears all too clear (see how Brandi reacts seeing him dead: she tries to burn the body to incriminate Bardo!).
Finally, I'll take back 1/2 point to get back at Gordon for giving me a moment of total disgust. Gordon: we DON'T NEED that eye candy to get it; we could have gotten it just as well if you had suggested what Mr. Binckley did on the bed, not shown it all in its unblemished glory & beauty. 6.5/10.
BTW: an anonymous call to police wouldn't have helped the illegals, as they would have been interviewed anyway the moment Brandi's house is declared a CS.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film stuck is a very interesting thriller to watch. The story is twisted true events situation that happened in 2001. The film started off calm with this woman who works in a old folks home who is feeding people then it takes you to a party scene where she is taking drugs. On the way from the party she is driving home and she hits this man with her car and he goes through the window and thats where he stays. From the beginning of the film to the end of the film I felt like the excitement of the events were getting hire and hire, like the writers kept raising the stakes. A film should go up and down with the stakes and events, but I just felt us going up. The scenes were great and the action was nice but its as if some was turning up volume, It'll hurt your ears on the highest level. The best thing about watching this film was thinking the whole time it was a true story that happened to this woman where she hit someone and panics so much that she didn't help that person. Only some of the true story was in the film which was great but the rest of the story was OK. The film was exciting but the ending was a little shaky.
|Page 1 of 8:||       |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|