STUCK

STUCK

Brandi (Mena Suvari) works as a nurse in an old folks' home. She and her colleague/friend Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) frequently bitch behind their sour-faced boss's back, in-between carrying out chores such as tending to old men when they shit their beds.

The weekend is looming and Brandi has plans for the Friday evening. However, her boss Petersen (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) asks for Brandi to attend work on the Saturday morning. Initially reluctant, Brandi agrees when Petersen implies that she is being considered for a promotion.

With her spirits high, Brandi leaves for the evening and gets even high throughout the course of the night with boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby).

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Thomas (Stephen Rea) is having the day from Hell. He's been evicted from his apartment for missing payment on the rent, failed to register for possible employment due to a mix-up with the form he completed, and is resigned to walking the streets with the little belongings he managed to gather while his landlord was turfing him out.

Thomas finally finds a park bench to rest his weary head on for the night, dumping his spare clothes in a shopping trolley donated to him by a fellow transient. However, it's not long before the cops move Thomas along and he's taken to walking the city streets some more, pushing his trolley along on his way.

Brandi and Thomas's fates lock horns when she leaves the nightclub where she's spent the evening drinking and doing drugs, and gets in her car, arranging to meet Rashid back at her place. She sets off on the short journey home but unfortunately becomes distracted while approaching a zebra crossing. At that moment, Thomas happens to be crossing the road. Sure enough, Brandi hits Thomas at high speed and he's sent crashing through her windscreen.

Panicked, Brandi races home and locks her car away in her garage, promising Thomas that she will call for help. With two broken legs and heavy blood loss, he needs her help to get out of his predicament.

But Brandi has other things on her mind. Like her impending promotion. How would it look if news of her drunken mowing down of an innocent broke out? So instead of ringing the hospital, she asks Rashid for his help. After all, the wannabe gangster claims to have killed before - he's sure to be able to get rid of Thomas's body right?

It's not quite that easy, as screenwriter John Strysik fashions an escalating conundrum of near-farcical catastrophe for Brandi and Rashid to contend with. Come the morning, Brandi has to somehow enlist Tanya's help to cover for her at work while keeping her secret from her. She also has the cowardly Rashid to pull into line, while also contending with the revelation that he has another woman on the go.

Elsewhere, there are Brandi's nosy immigrant neighbours and the little fact that Thomas is starting to get frantic - his screams for help are getting louder, and he's beginning to gain his strength.

Can Brandi silence Thomas, rid herself of the evidence and get her promotion? Or can Thomas escape the increasingly mental bitch and save his own life?

STUCK is well worth watching to find out.

A hit at last year's Dead By Dawn festival, Stuart Gordon's STUCK is a contemporary morality tale that's been loosely based on a true incident which also formed the basis of an episode of CSI.

The fact of the matter is that the only true element of Gordon's film is that a woman hit a man in her car and failed to report it - she left him stuck in her shattered windscreen, fearful of her own consequences. This does indeed happen in STUCK, but Gordon and Strysik get to run with the idea and turn into an increasingly macabre and at times admittedly silly (enjoyably so) romp through one failed scheme after another.

Suvari clearly relishes her role as the selfish Brandi, coming across as one of the most deliciously evil female characters of recent memory. What's scary is that she is so plausible too. Hornsby is great comic relief as the dumb and scared Rashid, while Rea elicits true empathy for his tired, battered Thomas. You really root for this guy, such is the contrast between his innocent neediness and Brandi's unswaying greed. It's almost like a pantomime: you feel like cheering Rea on, especially in the Guignol final third.

To say the film marks a return to form for Gordon is a little strong. That implies that films like KING OF THE ANTS and DAGON were rubbish; they weren't. It's also a little much when people suggest that this is Gordon's best film since RE-ANIMATOR. Have they forgotten the excellent FROM BEYOND?!

Having said that, STUCK is enormous fun. It feels like a small film - concept, cast, budget. Its look is rather washed out and the sets are deliberately dark and colourless. It's certainly a different visual feel for a Gordon film, steeped in reality rather than the Lovecraftian excesses of much of his back catalogue.

And so it fits that Gordon's direction is very straightforward, almost artless in its execution. Shot almost like a TV movie, Gordon wisely focuses on the actors. It's a wise move, as they turn in sterling performances, aided greatly by Strysik's quick, funny script.

Though not a horror film, STUCK does graphically explore the horrific nature of self-preservation inherent in modern-lay life and does offer one of the most monstrous screen villainesses in recent memory.

You may need an aspirin after the headache-inducing hip hop soundtrack has had it's way with you, but it's worth it: STUCK is simple, unpretentious fun with a nasty streak lurking beneath.

Well-paced, wonderfully performed and blessed with a sharply observed script. Funny, shocking and emotive - and Survari gets them out too. I think that may be a first for her?

Review by Stuart Willis


 
Released by High Fliers
Rated 18
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