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'Stuck' is audience manipulation in the crudest sense

Sentinel Movie Critic

We all heard about it, and shuddered at the thought when it happened. A drug-abusing drunken driver in Texas hit a homeless man who crashed through her windshield, and she pulled into her garage and left him to die. Chante Jawan Mallard even came back to check on him to see if he had died yet. 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. It's audience manipulation in the crudest sense.

The film takes race out of the story, making both the homeless man newly homeless ( Stephen Rea) and the stoned driver ( Mena Suvari) white. Brandi (Suvari) is 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 some 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.

I can't say I liked the troubling first half of this well-crafted film, with its agonizing moments with a man impaled by a windshield wiper. But at least that half is morally defensible. It lost me the moment it started going for cheap laughs.

Screening at: Saturday, March 29, midnight-1:25 AM at Regal; Monday, March 31, 9:15 p.m.-10:40 p.m. at Enzian

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