Comedy of the grotesque

Stuart Gordon's Stuck cuts both ways

REVIEW Always looking like the potato famine's desperately drunk survivor, Stephen Rea is that rare screen actor masochistically gifted at communicating physical as well as psychic pain. No one could possibly have struck more notes on the scale from pathos to giddy gallows humor than he does in Stuck, cult horror director Stuart Gordon's brutally tart black comedy. He plays Tom, a down-on-his-luck, newly jobless and homeless guy whose already shitty day gets a whole lot worse when he's accidentally plowed into by Brandi (Mena Suvari), a young rest home caregiver in the distracted aftermath of some major off-time partying. Lodged in her windshield — half in, half out of the car — Tom appears to be not long for this world. So Brandi (afraid that involving the police, to say nothing of jail time, might endanger her potential job promotion) does the logical thing: she drives home, parks the car in the garage, and goes to work, assuming that Tom will expire during her shift. Only he hangs on, finding ways despite his weakened, bloody, and, er, stuck condition to keep the not-exactly-evil but slightly trashy, supremely self-involved Brandi and her less-than-faithful boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby) from disposing of him. Inspired (very loosely) by an actual incident, Stuck is a eminently satisfying comedy of the grotesque, sporting all of Gordon's flair for balancing queasy horror and near-surreal hilarity. (When you look back on his track record of imaginative genre films and consider the dreck that routinely gets wide-released, it's shameful that this is practically his first theatrically distributed feature since Re-Animator and From Beyond, both more than two decades old.) Suvari and Hornsby etch shallow yet oddly sympathetic characters in very funny and credible details, while Rea is ideal in one of his best roles ever — not that this is the kind of movie people give acting awards for. Maybe they ought to, though.

STUCK opens Fri/6 in Bay Area theaters.

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