There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Stuck, at least, is supposed to be darkly funny. And it is—though often at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons. With a cast headed by Mena Suvari and Stephen Rea and a headline-ripped plot ready for satire, you might expect that director Stuart Gordon (known for the cult hit Re-Animator) could have successfully shaped the kind of balls-out, intentional B-movie aesthetic that Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse aimed for and only partly achieved. Instead, the film comes off as true schlock, its winks obscured by the endless irritation of standard horror-movie tropes.
Suvari plays Brandi, a cornrowed nursing-home aide who’s told she’s up for a promotion. After work she goes out with her friend Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) and boyfriend, Rashid (Russell Hornsby), to celebrate, drinking and taking some of the E that Rashid sells. That same day, Tom (Rea) is having the opposite luck, getting evicted from his apartment and waiting all day at an employment agency only to find out that he’s not in its database and will have to go through red tape all over again. Tom, in shirtsleeves and a trench yet rumpled-looking nonetheless, is steeling himself for his first night in the park when a cop points him to a shelter.
So Tom takes the shopping cart that the friendliest homeless person in the world has already offered him and is shuffling across a street when Brandi, drunk and high off her ass, comes barreling down the road while fumbling with her cell. Tom torpedoes through the windshield. Brandi keeps driving; the aforementioned friendliest homeless person in the world, who is now being harassed by a cop himself, sees Tom’s legs and says, “Hey, I know that guy!” Let the parade of “Yeah, right!” moments begin.
Brandi ends up stashing her car, and Tom, in her garage and proceeds to have sex with Rashid, who knows she had an accident but wasn’t completely filled in on the details. Ostensibly, Brandi doesn’t report the incident because she’s worried about jeopardizing her promotion. But this argument doesn’t wash: The next morning, she’s not concerned enough about her job to call in to say she’ll be late. And shortly after she gets there, she leaves and asks Tanya to cover for her. But the best part is that she keeps emphatically repeating that the accident wasn’t her fault and seems to believe it. Not reporting a man stuck in your windshield because you realize you were wasted: logical. Not believing it was your fault: priceless.
Besides terrible acting from everyone except, in spurts, Suvari—which hardly counts because her character is so unrealistic—Stuck suffers mostly from its endless “Why don’t they just…?” plot issues (courtesy of scripter John Strysik). The “joke” is the sight of Tom spending the night in the windshield and only later, for some unknown reason, trying to get himself out. It’s excruciating to watch, with plenty of blood and crunches whose origins are alternately glass and bone. Just when it seems like Brandi is starting to come to her senses, she does something to worsen the situation—girlfriend really wants that pay raise.
Despite its flood of absurdities, the film does have two stellar scenes: In one, Brandi discovers Rashid with another woman and beats the crap out of her in a sequence of white-trash brilliance. And then there’s the end, which, without really spoiling anything, results in the garage being engulfed in flames. Considering the dreck that came before it, an inferno feels just right.