The movie is about a woman who hits a guy with her car and drives home with him still lodged in the windshield — then parks in the garage, closes the door and leaves him there to die.
The title tells you everything you need to know about the tone it takes with this ghastly subject matter: “Stuck.” Cult horror director Stuart Gordon plays the material absolutely straight, but with a twisted sense of humor.
“Stuck” is based on a true story, too, which makes it even more riveting to see these events unfold on screen. It’s inspired by a fatal 2001 car crash in Fort Worth, Texas, that earned the driver, Chante Mallard, a 50-year prison sentence. But this is no prime-time TV re-enactment, full of glossy lighting and stylish edits; Gordon and co-writer John Strysik strip the accident down to expose the ugliest elements of human behavior.
Mena Suvari, her angelic features hardened by her blond hair in cornrows, stars as Brandi, a retirement-home nurse who gets behind the wheel after a night of drinking and pills. Stephen Rea co-stars as Tom, a man who has lost his job to corporate downsizing, is homeless and just happens to be crossing the street at the wrong time.
Brandi’s meager life in Providence, R.I., is on the upswing while’s Tom’s is in decline: She’s in line for a promotion at work, and her fear of losing out on the new supervising gig is one big reason she panics and keeps the accident a secret.
She’s also not the sharpest tool in the shed, clearly. Her boyfriend, Rashid (Russell Hornsby), is a drug dealer who cheats on her and just keeps popping Ecstasy tablets in her mouth to assuage her when she freaks out.
“Baby, you got nothin’ to worry about. You hit a bum!” he coos. “It’s no big deal.” Rashid also suggests that new seat covers might help cover up the crime.
But there’s Tom, with his legs splayed across the hood, his torso flopped over the dashboard, the blood from his forehead landing with a loud slap-slap-slap on the passenger seat. He’s still alive, though. And the moment when he writhes and struggles to reach Brandi’s cell phone to call 911 is intimately gory. (The fact that Rea, star of “The Crying Game,” has to do the majority of his acting from this position is a testament to the versatility of his talent. It probably was also fun for him to appear in such a wildly macabre movie.)
“Stuck” shows how one bad decision can lead to another and another, causing seemingly ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the name of survival. Brandi’s eventual ability to turn the crime upside down in her mind, and blame Tom for lying there mangled and bloodied by shards of metal and glass, is stunning. (And that’s how Mallard reacted in real life, too.)
The irony, of course, is that Brandi helps people who are elderly and infirm for a living — washing their backsides when they’ve soiled themselves in bed — but she can’t even be bothered to lift a finger for the guy who is about to die because of her selfishness.
Suvari goes from harmlessly stupid to coldly murderous over the course of a night, and the transformation is chilling to watch.
But there’s also plenty of dark humor to break up the bleakness, including one scene with an unusually hungry Pomeranian. That’s when “Stuck” turns into “Snack.”