Mena Suvari Stephen Rea

  3.5 out of 5 stars
  Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

"Stuck" was inspired by a true story. In 2001, Chante Mallard spent an evening drinking in (and apparently inhaling) too much southern hospitality. She got good and liquored up, piloting her car through the streets of Fort Worth as if she was in a demolition derby. Oblivious to her surroundings, she hit Greg Biggs, a homeless man, who became "stuck" in her windshield. Rather than take the dying man to a hospital, Mallard bolted for home and parked in her garage with Briggs still protruding from her the front of her vehicle. Biggs died two hours after he was mowed down. Mallard was contrite when she was tried for murder, but she couldn't duck her deserved 50 year sentence for murder.

2007's "Stuck" expands on Mallard's tragic tale, mixing in darkly humorous twists that turn an unsavory act into an amusing cat and mouse struggle between the victim and his increasingly inept captors.

Brandi Boski (Mena Suvari, showing unexpected range) is a nurse at a retirement home who's so well thought of by her patients and peers that she's in line for a promotion. Away from the job, Brandi's an Extasy swallowing, booze swilling party girl, hanging out at the local club with her co-worker Tanya (adorable Rukinya Bernard, raising the bar on the best black friend role), and drug-dealing boyfriend, Rashid, (riotous Russell Hornsby).

Meanwhile, Thomas Bardo, a former white collar worker who lost his job to downsizing (boy, can I identify with that!), is evicted from a flophouse room the day of an important interview. He arrives at the unemployment office carrying his wrinkled worldly processions, then sits for hours waiting to speak to someone. When his turn finally comes, Tom is given the bureaucratic runaround. With no job, no money and no place to stay, Tom collapses on a park bench. He's approached by a homeless man, Sam, who takes one look at the downtrodden man in the trundled trench coat and says, "I don't know whether to ask you for money or give you some." Sam shows Tom the first hint of human kindness he's seen in a long while by offering him a swig of rot gut and a shopping cart.

After a brain cell slaughtering session of partying, an X'ed out Brandi drives home. Distracted as she gabs with Rashid on her cell phone, Brandi plows Tom down as he's crossing the street. Tom's broken body crashes through the windshield, sticking into the cracked glass like an arrow in a straw target. In a panic, Brandi considers driving Tom to the emergency room, then weighs calling 911. She remembers she's up for a promotion, so she pulls the car into the garage, and, convinced Tom's dead, calls Rashid, hesitantly revealing to him that she hit a homeless man. Rashid tells her not to worry about it; the bum will never be missed. He's less sure when Brandi takes him into the garage:

Rashid: I thought you said you hit a guy.
Brandi: Yeah, he's the guy.
Rashid: Yeah, but you didn't say you hit a guy and brought him home with you!

When Tom nearly escapes, Brandi and Rashid's plans grow more grim and desperate, but the contentious couple proves to be as comically incompetent at terminating Tom as Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz were at inconspicuous celebrity stalking. All Tom wants is some help, but in the end, he's the only one who can help himself.

Mena Suvari has kept a very low profile since her breakthrough role as an alluring Lolita in "American Beauty." With her hair so tightly knotted in corn rows it looks ready for seeding, and dressed in non descript hospital scrubs, Suvari's Brandi is all about her personality, not her looks, which is fine, because Suvari is terrific. Suvari goes from a carefree conscientious caretaker to pixilated party girl, then rapidly unravels, descending into stages of guilt, paranoia, desperation and homicidal intent.

Stephen Rea's Tom is evicted, tied up in government red tape, rousted by cops - and hit by a car. Then he's broken, bashed, beaten, bound, bagged, and bitten. To say the least, he's having a bad day. Stephen Rea made his name in the U.S playing a sad sack who got a surprise of a very different kind in the "Crying Game." His hang-dog eyes, slumped posture and exasperated sighs capture a man at the end of his rope. He spends most of the film covered in blood, struggling to survive, trying to push his broken frame through the smashed windshield like a baby making its way into the world. (How's that for allegory?). Rhea expertly translates Tom's misery. When he pleads for help, you'll want to pull him out, clean him off and let him lay low on your couch for a few days.

Russell Hornsby takes an initially despicable drug-pushing, horndog and successfully transforms him into Brandi's comic foil. Hornsby's stunned, say-what expressions take a lot of the dire heaviness out of the film's escalating violence and abuse. Midway through their tense planning of Tom's fate, it becomes abundantly clear to the audience that Rashid is not the fearless gangster in the hood with nerves of steel (more like steal) that he pretends to be:

Rashid: We'll get rid of him and the car in the park. We'll burn the f***er.
Brandi: You want to burn my car now? I thought you said we could fix the
window and put seat covers on.
Rashid: Seat covers? Are you f***ing nuts? It's got his blood everywhere. Look what happened to O.J.!
Brandi: Yeah, but didn't O.J. go free?
Rashid: That's not the point!

Writer John Strysik and director Stuart Gordon have managed to take a dreadful set of circumstances and turn them into an ironic, rib-tickling dark drama. "Stuck" also presents a movie rarity - the pen as a weapon, as well as an advantageous place to stick it.

The trio of Suvari, Rea and Hornsby are convincing, even as the story veers from the true facts toward a level of absurdity and irony usually found in an episode of "The Twilight Zone." Stick with this one.



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