Monday, June 02, 2008

Stuck


I've officially become quite curious about Stuart Gordon, who impressed me two years ago with the William H. Macy starrer "Edmond," and continued to impress me a few days ago when I saw his latest film "Stuck," which I remembered seeing it on the schedule at last years Toronto Film Festival. "Stuck" is based on a rather fascinating true event, with the Gordon penned script going further than how the actual event ended. 

Steven Rea plays Tom Bardo-a down on his luck man who was recently evicted from his apartment, and was also not granted the interview that he had an appointment for after a computer mix-up. Resorting to having to live on the streets, Tom ends up coming into contact with Brandi, after she hits him with her car. Brandi is a caregiver at a nursing home, and finds out that she is up for a promotion. She hits Tom while high on ecstasy, and doesn't know what to do about it when he gets impaled in her windshield. Since nobody sees the accident she brings Tom home, leaves him in her garage with him still in the window, and than goes upstairs to have sex with her drug dealer macho boyfriend Rashid. The real event story that this film is based on ends with the homeless man dying in her windshield after she leaves him for a few days, but the script here goes further to show what happens with the man-in this case Tom-tries to escape from the situation. And that is where "Stuck" becomes even more interesting, intense, and even a bit fun.

This is either the saddest story that I've ever seen, or possibly one of the funniest-but in a very very dark and even kind of sick way. Gordon has the audience easily worrying about Tom from the very beginning, and during his entire situation it is impossible to ever side with Brandi, who is selfish from the get-go. Mena Survari plays the part very well, and this is easily her most complex role since her impressive turn in "American Beauty" nearly ten years ago. And Stephen Rea as Tom manages to go beyond the one note performance that could have possibly come out of this character, whose dialogue mostly consists of "Help me. . ." or "You can't leave me here. . ." And one would have to be of sick mind to laugh at some of the little jokes here, such as a dog finding itself inside the garage where Tom is and licking his leg wound which has the bone jutting out. But at its core, "Stuck" is a classic survival story-not only the obvious survival element of Tom trying to get out of the garage in one piece, but also the survival in every day life. Brandi does not want to turn the accident in in fear of it damaging her promotion. Tom is facing struggle at the very beginning. Even side characters like a kind homeless man who gives Tom some advice is easily trying to survive the everyday world in his situation, as well as a family of immigrants that see Tom in the garage, but do not want to involve the police in their lives for fear that they would be deported.

And simply put, "Stuck" is just an entertaining little film, told in some B-movie format. It is both gruesome and compelling at the same time, constantly entertaining and absorbing for its lean 90 minute running time. It has all the classic moments of a film like this-the close calls to rescue, the damage that the torturer keeps inflicting, and than a third act with several twists and clues about how the story would end. I certainly didn't know if Gordon was going to kill Tom like in the real life incident, or let him live and have something else happen. And without giving any spoilers I still didn't know until the last minute, and it managed to have me walk out of the theatre very satisfied. I intend on looking into some of the older films of Stuart Gordon, but it's safe to say that I have been impressed with his last two very much. "Stuck" is worth looking for-it's currently in one theatre in Manhattan and will probably stay that way, but it wouldn't be a regretful trip.

***1/2 of ****

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