Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Review: Stuck (2007) dir. Stuart Gordon

Based on a shocking, and acutely unfunny true story of a homeless man impaled in the windscreen of a young drug/drunk driving Texan woman, Stuck is about as dark as satirical horror gets. We first meet the victim, Tom (Stephan Rea) scrabbling together his merge possessions as he gets kicked out of his rock-bottom rooming house. Tom, we learn, is a former project manager, credit-crunched onto the street. The employment agency greets him with Orwellian warmth. On the other hand, Brandi (Mena Suvari), his soon-to-be unwitting chauffeur, seems to be on the up. No matter how hard times get, daycare nurses who sponge faeces with a smile are always valued. In line for promotion, she celebrates by hitting a nightclub with her colleague Tanya. They meet Brandi’s boyfriend Rashid, who slips happy pills into their waiting mouths.

Like a macabre anticipation of the US’s spiraling recession, Tom’s character personifies downturn. When Brandi’s car finally smashes into this sad, mumbling, trolley pushing figure, we might even be thankful for an act of unconscious mercy killing. Except he isn’t dead. She drives on, shaken, but seemingly more concerned with the blood on her car seat than the man’s well being. Tom, wedged and bloody, stuck in the windscreen like an oversized Garfield toy, comes back to life. “Help me” he pleads with reason. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Brandi responds, “But it wasn’t my fault, you should’ve watched where you were going.” (She has a point, the signal did clearly tell him not to walk.)

Back at home, Brandi is calmed by Rashid with yet another pill. Sedated and horny, the pair fuck, Brandi’s fuzzy consciousness crudely punctuated by flashbacks of Tom’s auto penetration (one can imagine this film would have been high priority on J G Ballad’s terminated LoveFilm list) and her cries of horror mistaken for orgasm. In the garage, Tom, parked, undead, half man half bonnet, gurgles cries for help.

Approaching the ten year anniversary of her petal ejaculation in American Beauty, Mena Suvari excels in a role someway from the picket-fence slut that made her name. A testament to Suvari’s performance, Brandi isn’t quite the repugnant figure her actions suggest. Not so much evil as morally sidetracked. Suvari and director Stuart Gordon neatly toy with class guilt (pitting the selfless shit-wiper against the self-pitying fallen superior) and have fun with her confused, corn-rowed, ‘wigga’ identity (The hip hop soundtrack is by the appropriately named Japanese artist DJ Honda, signaling an embrace of ethnic hybridity that would shame even James Toback.)

The target of Stuck’s bloody ire is not so much venal self interest as an apparent total abdication of individual responsibility. In a society where everyone is liable but no one is accountable, the art of shirking has become a national sport. Whilst this state of affairs is arguably more Clintonian than anything else, Gordon clearly sees the (then) incumbent as the buck stopper. Brandi tells Rashid about her hit, stick and run, but the boyfriend sees no cause for alarm. “Anybody can do anything to anyone and get away with it. I mean anything. I mean, fuck, look who’s in the White House right now.” Governed by a cabal of drunk drivers (Cheney, like Bush, had previous) Rashid’s argument stands up. (It’s interesting to note that Gordon had been planning an update to his Re-Animator franchise with Dr Herbert West brought in to resurrect a Cheney-esque vice president.) Any liberal back-slapping however, is troubled by the arrival of Brandi’s Latino neighbours, Tom’s false saviors, who neglect to inform authority out of fear of deportation. Stuck, in all its sinewy splendor, works well as contemptuous non-too-subtle study of late Bush-era societal breakdown. Indeed it is tempting to see Tom, the smashed loser, as a timely figurehead for a despondent America: battered and blood-stained, financially washed up, a mess. But there’s life in the old beast yet…


  1. 'shame even James Toback'. buahaha. man, need to get my hands on Love and Money, somehow...and in real life the latter because of the former!

    more 'comments' - actual, germane ones, i mean - coming end of the week, old friend!

  2. Ah, Love and Money..As elusive is life as it is on DVD. But all good things will come...