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Director:Stuart Gordon
Cast:Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard
Release Date:2008

By Jess Harvell | Posted 6/11/2008

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" an incredulous, blood-soaked, nearly disemboweled Stephen Rea asks toward the end of Stuck as he totters half-dead on a broom he's using as a makeshift crutch. His question is posed to a frantic Mena Suvari, who's poised to clonk him over the head with a hammer to prevent him from getting to the police. It's a question that the audience will no doubt also be asking by Stuck's third act. But the answer is simple. Like too many of us, Suvari's ripped-from-the-headlines character is a petty, self-absorbed brat. She just takes her self-absorption the distance, all the way to letting a man bleed to death on the hood of her car so it won't monkey-wrench her career plans.

Rea plays Tom Bardo, a damp schlub who's evicted from his roach motel and run through the bureaucratic ringer at an employment agency, becoming homeless in the course of a day. Across town, Suvari's Brandi Helper is a nurse's assistant willing to clean poop off an old man's bottom if it means a promotion. (We all get to enjoy that messy little image, too.) Blowing off steam after work, she hooks up with Rashid (Russell Hornsby), her drug-dealing boyfriend, and pumps herself so full of cocktails and ecstasy that she winds up taking out Tom on the way home with her car, so hard that he flies right through her windshield. And he stays there, stashed in Brandi's garage, all night and through the next day, as she sweats through every opportunity to dial 911, knowing that being convicted for a DUI hit-and-run that's still pinned to her dashboard would deep-six her chances to become captain of the nursing assistants.

Director Stuart Gordon's small-time suspense flick perverts the tension of a prison break and offers fewer visual thrills than any drama currently airing on the CW, though a quick look at his filmography (hint: Re-Animator) should tell weak stomachs that they'll have to endure some nice, protracted sequences where a mangled Rea attempts to dislodge himself from his predicament. And so you may cringe as he wriggles in agony, snagged on all that broken glass. And you may also cringe at some of the stock plot twists lifted straight from TV cop shows. At one point Rea is discovered by a Hispanic mother and son; the woman's husband tells her to forget calling the cops out of fear of, you guessed it, being deported. Then there's the "cheating boyfriend" subplot, which exists mostly so Gordon can assure horror nerds the union-mandated number of breasts are bared.

But the audience winds up pulled along anyway, if only by the simple desire to see Rea survive and spite the selfish little sociopath that got him into this mess. It's a weird testament to the desperate brattiness Suvari brings to her otherwise blah performance that you want to scream at the screen when she asks Rea, impaled on her windshield wiper and leaking a very different kind of fluid, "Why are you doing this to me?" Annoyed rather than appalled by Suvari's inhuman indifference, you're left with getting off on Rea's revenge rather than a decent script, and while his gory odyssey may be fine B-grade suspense schlock, the slight but sorta entertaining Stuck is still the kind of movie best enjoyed as a surprise respite from couch-surfing desperation.

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