Directed by Stuart Gordon. Starring Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard. (2008, R, 94 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 6, 2008
Had the horrific events detailed in Stuck not already been a matter of public record, no one in his or her right mind could have plotted them without agents and spouses fearing for the filmmaker's utterly absent sense of, ah, joie de vivre. But this is Stuart Gordon at the helm, former head of Chicago's Organic Theater Company and the man best known as the graveyard humorist behind 1985's Re-Animator. Gordon loves the grue – his corpus delicti is nothing if not deliciously corpsey – but more than that, he gets a downright jolly kick out of putting his characters through paces just this side of Franz Kafka-meets-Lucio Fulci. In his films, things go from bad to worse, and those who, at first meeting, appear to be the sanest of the lot end up just as mad, bad, and dangerous to know as the more obvious maniacs that surround them. And in that sense at least, he is one of a precious few American independent filmmakers who, you'll pardon the pun, lacerates his way straight to the bad, black heart of the (in-)human condition. Stuck is based on a traffic violation from hell that took place in Fort Worth, in 2001, when Chante Mallard, an off-duty nurse's aide driving home after a night of booze and pills, struck but did not kill a man unfortunate enough to cross the street in front of her Chevy Cavalier. Panicked and high, and with the luckless, mangled fellow lodged face-first through her windshield, Mallard pulled her wrecked car into her garage and then, in a still-shocking episode of denial, left him there, apparently hoping this very bad trip would turn out to be just that. It wasn't, and while I hesitate to call Stuck a comedy of even the most mordant sort, it is nonetheless buoyed by queasy, easy performances from American Beauty's Suvari, as this ultimate queen of denial, and – oh, it is to laugh (or gag) – The Crying Game's Rea, as her unhelpfully alive victim. Remarkably, Gordon has fashioned a moody, minor masterpiece that eloquently speaks to both the bloody body politic and the creeping, creepy American mindset that whispers, "If we ignore it, maybe it will go away" (witness our current Persian debacle). Rea's recently downsized character is just another luckless casualty of the random event: His roadside IED just happened to take place on American soil. Suvari, on the other hand, not only fails to call 911 but spends the rest of the film in a flustered state of sexualized, increasingly paranoid, and alcohol-fueled dismay. This being a Gordon film, she goes from dope to demon by film's end, but Rea more than holds his own, even if he can't do much more than writhe and howl and curse his grossly godawful luck. Laugh? Cry? I thought I'd die, but then that's the genius of Gordon.