Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Stuck

Despite the imprimatur of enthusiasts like Quentin Tarantino, there's hardly any place for accomplished low-budget genre trash in American theaters these days, so the fact that Stuart Gordon's savagely funny black comedy Stuck is getting released at all speaks to its quality. The hook is a doozy, ripped from a tabloid headline that sounds like urban legend: Back in 2003, a woman from Ft. Worth was involved in a hit-and-run incident in which she struck a homeless man with her car and left him to die in her garage for two days with his head lodged in the windshield. This sounds like the makings of a lurid psychodrama, but Gordon (whose career includes the cult favorite Re-Animator and the underrated David Mamet adaptation Edmond) lets his imagination run wild and extends an already juicy premise into even pulpier territory.

Donning cornrows for a white-trash edge, Mena Suvari stars as a nurse whose compassion apparently ends at a nursing home, where she's vying for a big promotion. On a Friday night, she goes out partying with her friends, takes a hit or two of ecstasy, drinks her weight in martinis, and stumbles to her car. Meanwhile, a homeless man, played by superb character actor Stephen Rea (familiar from Neil Jordan films like The Crying Game and The End Of The Affair), lumbers to a mission shelter after getting booted from a park bench. When their paths literally collide, Suvari doesn't know how to react; she ponders calling for help (and assures him repeatedly that help is on the way), but she doesn't want to get in trouble. So she leaves him in her garage and tries to go about her business.

The callousness and casual disregard for human life displayed by Suvari and several other characters, major and minor, recalls Larry Clark's Bully, though Gordon's film is much more purposeful. Though it takes a little time to find its groove—the hilarious opening-credits sequence notwithstanding—Stuck picks up a lot of comic momentum once the situation gets more desperate and absurd. The original true-life story gained some ink as a particularly ripe example of dumb self-interest and moral and intellectual vacuity. Gordon ingeniously converts it into a vicious satire on man's inhumanity to man, all while holding the requisite tension of a drive-in-ready horror/thriller. It's a righteously nasty piece of work, and a rare example of a movie that traffics in B-movie grime without a trace of Grindhouse-style self-consciousness.