... excluding his contributions to Mick Garris' Masters of Horror anthologies.
In recent years, director Stuart Gordon has branched out from the H.P. Lovecraft adaptions he was famous for and started to creep towards more realistic scenarios, and although ‘Stuck’ is pretty far removed from the gorefest that is ‘Re-Animator’, it still has its fair share of gruesome moments and black humor. Based on real events, Gordon and writer John Strysik have injected the basic story with a venomous satirical slant that echoes classic George A.Romero and makes what could have been an already bizarre story into a rather more interesting tale.
The story centers around the tragic figure of Thomas Bardo (Stephen Rea), an unemployed man who gets thrown out of his lodgings for not paying his rent. After an unsuccessful visit to the employment office, where he is made to feel even more insignificant by his advisor by being told he isn’t on their system, even though he’s filled out all the correct forms already. Now jobless, homeless and with no cash at all, Thomas is forced to find a park bench to sleep on, where he befriends another homeless man who gives him a shopping cart. Meanwhile, elder care assistant Brandi (Mena Suvari, surprisingly quite good) is up for a promotion, and to celebrate she has gone out on the town with her friend and colleague Tanya, and her drug-dealing boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby), who gives the girls ecstasy tablets. Brandi and Rashid leave the club and decide to meet up at Brandi’s house later on. Unwisely choosing to drive, Brandi makes her way home, but driving whilst on drugs and using a cell phone isn’t sensible as Brandi loses concentration for a second and hits Bardo, who had been moved on by the police and was on his way to a homeless shelter. Rather than bounce off the hood, though, Bardo goes headfirst into the windshield and manages to get stuck (do you see what they did there?) half in and half out of the car. Brandi panics and drives home, where she realizes that Bardo is still alive. She parks in her garage and goes in the house where Rashid turns up a few minutes later. Brandi tells him what happened but misses out the part about Bardo still being stuck in the windshield. Believing that Brandi hit a street bum and drove off, Rashid convinces her that no-one will come looking for a homeless guy and that she’s in the clear.
The next day, Brandi goes to work, and after a tense scene involving a taxi driver almost discovering Bardo in the garage, Brandi realises that she has left her cell phone in her car. Meanwhile, Bardo has also discovered it and tries to phone the police, although not knowing where he is could prove to be a problem. Also, the undocumented family who live next door have discovered Bardo but, due to their own predicament, don’t tell the authorities. Brandi also goes to see Rashid, who she finds in bed with another woman, and tells him the full story and asks for his help, as he has boasted about getting rid of bodies before. As Brandi soon discovers, though, his boasts turn out to be just that, as when Rashid goes to finish Bardo off, he gets more than he bargained for.
Overall, ‘Stuck’ is a gem of a movie. The cast are all pretty top notch in their roles, especially Stephen Rea as the hapless (though not for long) Bardo and Russell Hornsby as the cowardly Rashid, and given the incredible circumstances of the story, it’s all done pretty convincingly. Gordon’s direction is, as usual, tight and shows that he can handle more serious, dramatic subject matter with the same inventiveness he has displayed previously without resorting to dumbing down his style. There are moments of humor amongst the never gratuitous gore, and when combined with Gordon’s intelligent story telling, it all comes together to make a wonderfully entertaining movie. It isn’t perfect, but what movie is? The few editorial gaffes (like a windscreen shattering into shards in one shot, and being laminated in the next) are so minor that it doesn’t distract from the compelling story unfolding on the screen. As mentioned previously, there is also a satirical slant to the story, especially the scenes with Bardo at the employment office, and it can be said that the movie is a perfect "Bush administration film." As with all things, it’s there if you want to see it but it never overshadows the narrative.
There are those that say the events of this movie aren’t what really happened, but in the context of a movie, is that so important? The point is to entertain and maybe make you think a little, and on both of those points ‘Stuck’ can be called a success.