Friday, 11 September 2009

Stuck (2007)


After watching the highly enjoyable Dagon I thought I would check out some of Stuart Gordon's other recent films, starting with Stuck. It's based on a horrifying incident that occurred in 2001, where a former nurse's aide hit a homeless man with her car, leaving him lodged in the windshield. Then she drove home, failing to contact the authorities, and the man died several hours later. It's a terrible tragedy and a story that has the makings of a harrowing psychological thriller, but Gordon can't help but give us a wink and a nudge and includes the same elements of gore and black humour that characterise most of his other films.

It starts with a montage of sad old people shuffling around at an aged-care facility, set to gangster rap. I do love an ironic montage and it's a funny choice of music, but it also helps set up the two sides of the main character, caregiver Brandi Boski. When we first meet her she is hosing shit off an old man's ass (we've all been there) and her cartoonish super-bitch of a boss is using an impending promotion opportunity like a carrot on a stick. It's a lousy job, but you can tell she really cares about these old people. If you're an old man, who knows what will happen around this woman? Maybe she'll hose shit off your ass or maybe she'll hit you with her car and leave you stuck in a windshield for several days. It is a mystery.

The woman in the original case was black, but her counterpart here is played by Mena Suvari who is, as I'm sure you've noticed, super white. If Gordon wants to avoid the racial component that's fine, it's his story, but there are all these distracting nods to black culture. Her boyfriend and her best friend are black and she likes to hang out at hip-hop clubs etc. It's kind of weird, like a hilarious sitcom mix-up where they cast Mena Suvari thinking she was black, and then she turned up on set and they had to just had to play along. This is worse than when she played a military hard-ass in the Day of the Dead remake. Worst of all they give her white-girl cornrows, which always look terrible but look particularly awful on Suvari. She's rocking an Ursula-Andress-in-Slave-of-the-Cannibal-God level of forehead. Not a good look.

The victim in this story is Thomas Bardo, a former project manager who wears the ratty suit and beaten-down expression of the long-term unemployed. He is played by Stephen Rea, a great actor who is especially good at playing these kind of droopy-faced hangdog characters. He is kicked onto the street after his latest attempt at seeking employment is foiled by bitchy secretary and a bureaucrat who went to Franz Kafka school of business. He is told to move on by a policeman when he tries to sleep on a park bench, so he puts all his meager belongings in a shopping trolley and trundles his way to a mission.

Meanwhile Suvari is heading home from a nightclub with the trifecta of reckless driving: drunk, high and checking her cell phone messages. She might as well be blindfolded, so it's not exactly surprising when the two characters are introduced to each other at high speed, filmed in slo-mo for added horror. Suvari considers dropping him off at the hospital but chickens out and drives home. She locks her car and her new hood ornament in the garage and after her boyfriend manages to calm her down (thinking it was a normal hit-and-run) they have sex, during which she has traumatic flashbacks and starts shrieking hysterically. Making it particularly uncomfortable to watch are the cornrows and monster forehead which make her look like Herman Munster. It's terrifying. Shit, now I've got flashbacks.

The rest of the film follows Rea as he attempts to escape and Suvari as she tries to cover up her crime. His escape attempts come pretty close but are foiled by the usual suspects, including a dead cell phone battery and an immigrant family who find him but refuse to call the police in case they are deported. There's also a gory and wince-inducing scene where Rea extracts a broken wiper blade from his stomach. Also, Suvari hits a naked woman in the face with a frying pan (long story). By the end of the film Suvari has a narcissistic meltdown where she starts splashing the garage with petrol while blaming him for everything that's happened. Thankfully it has a far more cathartic ending than the real life story.

There's a few dark laughs to be had, such as a when a lapdog runs in through a hole in the garage and starts nibbling at his open wounds, but I kind of wish they'd played things straight. There are several scenes that should be suspenseful but aren't due to hammy acting, such as when Suvari and her boyfriend are trying to hide the accident from her friend or when he squeamishly attempts to finish off the injured Rea. At a shade over 80 mins it's entertaining and doesn't overstay it's welcome, but with such a juicy premise I wish they'd treated this shit like Shakespeare. Shakespeare with terrible white-girl cornrows.

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