Stuart Gordon has always been one of those directors who boggles my mind. When he's not making stuff I dig like From Beyond and Re-Animator, he's often making mutant Ken doll flicks (Castle Freak), awful Poe adaptations (The Pit and the Pendulum), or ridiculous robot battles (Robot Jox). The guy's career has been all over the genre map, which makes latest feature that much more interesting to me. That film is Stuck, and it's a far more current and human film than much of the man's work.
Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari star in the bloody tale, which brings two characters crashing together - literally - on the streets. Rea plays a down on his luck man who's been kicked out of his apartment while seeking a job, and finds himself wandering from place to place looking for somewhere to sleep. On the other side of town, Suvari plays a young woman who is set for a promotion at work and who is having the time of her life partying with friends - including experimental drug use - right up until the point where she gets behind the wheel in the middle of the nigh, starts talking on her cell phone, and crashes her car into the newly homeless man.
For no practical reason - except maybe the fact that fate loves to toy with us all - the man a) doesn't die and b) becomes lodged in the woman's windshield. And since she's worried about a) that promotion and b) the fact that she's driving around after blindly taking some pill she was offered in a bar, the woman panics and drives home, leaving the bleeding man hanging upside down and both of their futures hanging in the balance.
While there's plenty of blood being spilled throughout the film - including a few other disgusting bodily fluids in the woman's nursing home workplace - the primary focus of the film is choice. As the man wanders through life in the film's first act, he continually comes across stubborn characters who try to control him while offering "choices" that don't fulfill his needs. On the other side of the tale, the woman doesn't really stop to consider her actions at times, with her preoccupation on her future - criminally and professionally - taking the lead. I know a lot of people would react by trying to protect themselves while dealing with the situation, but the action she takes sure makes Suvari's character an easy target for the viewer's contempt.
The film becomes a battle for survival for both characters, and the road that the film takes to the final scene has plenty of twists and turns. Some of them parallel the characters' lives and hammer home the message that everyone has fears that prevent them from making choices, while some of them seem unnecessary at times. Along the way, the secret predicament that our characters are trapped in is nearly revealed to plenty of people. Rest assured, Gordon and screenwriter John Strysik do an excellent job of keeping the film feeling fresh despite some slight repetition.
The story is pretty limited in scope, yet there's a lot to think about throughout the film. If nothing else, the ending should linger a little bit and be a good talking point for viewers, which is a fine point for any genre flick to end on. Horror purists will certainly prefer Gordon's '80s output - I'm pretty sure I do too - but Stuck is a nice change of pace and a dramatic chiller that's worth finding. If nothing else, you get to see Mena Suvari overact like a champ and still not ruin the movie. And that's impressive too.