There's an exceedingly fine line between tragedy and comedy, as some wise philosopher said once. Indeed the laugh reflex can be triggered not just by a good joke, but by the need to release stress and tension when confronted by something so horrific the rational mind doesn't really know how to respond "correctly." All of this will come into play as you watch Stuck, a grim little character study loosely based on the real life story of a Fort Worth, Texas woman who hit a homeless man who become lodged in her windshield. The woman then simply drove home with him, parked in her garage, and allowed him to bleed to death over the ensuing two days. If Stuck goes off in a slightly different direction with this basic scenario, it is full of those dark and twisted moments where you will be searching your emotional database for the proper way to respond. You may laugh, you may recoil in horror, indeed you may do both simultaneously, but the visceral quality of this film is going to punch through your preconceptions of what a "good" or "bad" person is, and will most likely leave you radically unsettled for a good while after its end credits roll.
Mena Suvari stars here as Brandi, a Certified Nurse's Assistant who calmly and professionally attends to elders at an assisted living center. In a parallel universe, Stephen Rea is unemployed passive schlub Tom, haplessly searching for a job as he wanders through the twin mazes of employment agency bureaucracy and homelessness. Needless to say, these two lives literally intersect one tragic evening when Brandi, driving home both drunk and high on Ecstasy, plows into Tom as he crosses against a light (making the accident "his fault," in Brandi's mind), thrusting him through her windshield in one of many hideously graphic moments in the film.
What then unfolds is a couple of days worth of Brandi's machinations, as Tom is helplessly (at least for a while, anyway) impaled in her car and Brandi conspires to find a way out her dilemma. She's just been told she's up for a promotion at her nursing home, and her materialistic pursuit of a better life is going to be seriously hampered if anyone finds out she has a dying man wedged in her shattered windshield. Suvari is superb in this role, essaying a woman who for no real apparent reason other than fear and perhaps greed travels to the "dark side" of her psyche, and is as "stuck" in her own way as hapless Tom is in his.
Rea, with his doleful eyes and weathered countenance, does an equally amazing job portraying the slow realization in Tom's character that passively sitting (or lying, as the case may be) around asking for help, either figuratively or literally, isn't going to get him what he needs. If Brandi is the physical focus of the film, it's Rea's Tom who is at the emotional center of Stuck, and his transformation into a man of action, albeit one horribly wounded both physically and emotionally, is visceral enough to have most viewers yelling with excitement by the time the overwhelming climax arrives.
Stuck is not an easy film to watch, not the least reason of which is it is extremely gory and violent. Again, different viewers may react with nervous laughter at scenes of Brandi whacking Tom with a two by four to keep him from honking the car's horn in an attempt to summon help, or watching Tom extricate himself from a windshield wiper that has pierced his abdomen. I personally am not sure the film needed to be quite as graphic as it is, though I must admit that it gives Stuck a gasp-inducing quality that adds to its emotional punch, for better or worse.
Some of the intentionally comic moments strangely fall flatter than the ones that spring from the horrors of the situation, notably the byplay between Brandi and her drug dealing boyfriend Rasheed (Russell Hornsby). Tonally the movie perhaps veers once too often from farce to horror, somewhat undercutting the horrific aspects of what Tom is enduring. However, Brandi's growing panic and Tom's growing resoluteness make for a gripping seesaw of terror that overcomes this deficiency and will leave most viewers feeling emotionally spent and deeply disturbed. Whether you want to laugh or cry in response to that is up to you.
Stuck is presented in an excellent 1080p MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 transfer. While it's intentionally on the dark side (literally and figuratively), Stuck offers very sharp detail, with above average depth and clarity, consistent black levels and excellent color and saturation. I'm not sure how much we really need to see such graphic blood and gore in high definition, but that may be my personal queasiness shining through.
There's a surprising amount of punch to both the HD 5.1 and DD 5.1 soundtracks, with excellent multi-channel use of sound effects (especially in the crash sequence). Dialogue, always directionally placed, is clear and crisp. There are English and Spanish subtitles available.
There are a host of extra features on this Blu-ray that provide quite a bit of information on the film and its genesis. In addition to a commentary track by director Stuart Gordon, writer John Strysik and star Suvari, there are also three above-average featurettes, including "Ripped from the Headlines," which gives some background on the "real life" version of the story; "The Gory Details," showing the makeup and special effects involved in Rea's transformation; and "Driving Forces," an interview with Gordon and Strysik. There's also footage from the film's AFI screening in Dallas as well as the trailer.
To say that Stuck is unsettling is more than a bit of an understatement. Suvari and Rea are both amazing in unusual roles, and the basic story is unique, to say the least. If the films veers uneasily at times between horror and comedy, the overriding experience of watching Stuck is devastating. Recommended.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet