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Gordon's film, which runs from John Strysik's screenplay that is in turn based on a story Gordon himself wrote, stars Mena Suvari as Brandi, the nurse's aide who commits the atrocious act, and Stephen Rea as the homeless man. The drama that plays out between the two, who are by far the camera's primary focus, is taut, cringe-inducing, engaging, and horrifying, and that success is the result of Gordon's excellent direction and a cast - including Russell Hornsby as Brandi's boyfriend, Rashid - that is game to tackle the sordid material.
We first meet Brandi at her job, where she appears to be a sympathetic nurse in trying conditions, cleaning up an old man after he has shit himself. Although she has to work the next day, a Saturday, when Brandi's boss tells her that she's in line for a promotion the news is met with celebration and rowdy Friday night partying. While out on the town unwinding Brandi pops a couple of Ecstasy pills and has a few drinks, then drives herself home and smashes into Tom, who has just been evicted from his apartment. The crash scene is powerful and gory, replayed in slow-motion and rivaling Quentin Tarantino's Rashoman-style crash rendering in Death Proof [LAS feature].
Throughout the first half of the film Gordon almost makes the viewer feel sorry for Brandi. It's easy to identify with the frantic feeling of being in a horrible fix with little to no options. But as she hits Tom in the head with a board and yells at him after he begs her for help, telling him that their predicament is his fault - all while he is still stuck in the windshield, mind you - any sense of empathy begins to fade. For Brandi's is the ultimate selfish act, committed by a person who, when confronted with a life or death situation, clearly only cares about herself. Rashid contributes to the absurdity of the story, amplifying her delusions by reassuring her, "Anybody can do anything to anyone and get away with it." This is true to a certain point (Mallard wasn't caught until months later when she began bragging about the incident). When her neighbor's son spies the carnage through the garage window after hearing Tom's frantic honking of the car's horn he dutifully tells his parents, only to have his father, a Latino immigrant, decline to act for fear of being deported. A bleak scenario, indeed.
The final conflict of the film is a bit over-the-top, as the story drifts further and further away from the reality of the situation. Gordon's decision to end the film with a redemptive act is satisfying in a visceral sense, but also feels like a bit of a cop-out considering the sheer vulgarity of Mallard's story. Still, Stuck is a gritty, tense, and concise thriller that should immediately be added to your Netflix queue.
TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z14NEY-pSfE SEE ALSO: www.image-entertainment.com
SEE ALSO: www.thinkfilmcompany.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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