We all heard about it and shuddered at the thought when it happened. A drug-abusing drunken driver in Texas hit a homeless man. He crashed through her windshield, bleeding and moaning. But she pulled into her garage and left him to die.
Chante Jawan Mallard even came back to check on him to see if Gregory Biggs had expired. When he did, she had some friends dispose of the body. And she almost got away with it.
That's the inspiration for Stuart Gordon's torture-porn horror film Stuck, a movie that begins as a sad, excruciating indictment of a moment of inhumanity, evolves into a dark comedy and then takes on the veneer of a vengeance fantasy. Crude manipulation, it takes a heart-wrenching story and tries to find fun in it.
The film takes race out of the tale, making both the homeless man ( Stephen Rea of The Crying Game) and the stoned driver ( Mena Suvari) Caucasians. Brandi (Suvari) is also shown as a compassionate rest home nurse. That's before her night of booze and ecstasy, and the car wreck that she can't let anyone know about.
Rea gives plenty of empathy to Thomas Bardo, an unemployed mid-level manager whose life has hit bottom. He is newly on the streets, and that's where Brandi hits him. He's trapped, bleeding to death, and she's angry with him for the inconvenience he represents to her career and love life. He appeals to her, and we urge him on, hoping her humanity will shine through.
But Brandi's sometime beau (Russell Hornsby) has a harsh life lesson for her.
"Anybody can do anything to anyone, and get away with it."
I can't say I liked the troubling first half of this well-crafted film, with its agonizing moments of a man impaled by a windshield wiper. But at least that excruciating half is morally defensible. The film takes us on this man's downward spiral, the events that put him on the street with a drunken driver on the loose. It puts us in his shoes, on that windshield, making horrific choices to try and cling to life just a little longer.
But Stuck lost me the moment it started going for cheap laughs. Are we really meant to snicker at his suffering and at this awful, awful woman?
There's a deeper movie in this episode, a film about the dehumanization of our culture, a gutsier movie about how racism impersonalizes those who don't look like you. But that would have taken more courage than Stuart Gordon shows us here. Horrific events like this don't exactly scream out for treatments this cavalier and glib.