On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Gridlock’d (1997)
by NIR SHALEV
After their friend Cookie (Thandie Newton) overdoses on drugs, Spoon (Tupac Shakur) and Stretch (Tim Roth) drop her off at a hospital and decide immediately to want to kick the habit. What follows is the craziest 24 hours of their lives. Their plan of attack is to enroll in a government detox program. They find out that the trail of red tape leads back to hours of running around all of Detroit while being chased by a crazed drug dealer and surprisingly decent cops.
After selling cinderblocks in a camcorder box to a drug dealer named D Reaper (played by director Vondie Curtis-Hall himself), their fate was put in his hands. He shows up at random times throughout the film, at their exact location and chases them many times, firing off a pistol along with his bodyguard. Then there’s Mud (Bokeem Woodbine), another drug dealer they buy dope from and who also crossed paths with D Reaper, but in a bad way.
Every aspect of the plot intertwines with another and it’s all pulled off seamlessly. There are moments that may feel episodic but trust me, they’re not. Every new story aspect that starts eventually concludes and everything ties in together. The cinematography and editing techniques aren’t too flashy and maintain a pace that creates constant kinetic energy.
Watching Spoon and Stretch run from one government building to another is somewhat fun because the film belongs to the comedy genre. There’s a moment when Spoon decides that the best way to stay off the streets is by staying in the ER, and it comes as an epiphany to him just after Stretch was shot in the shoulder. He takes out his pocket knife, one so tiny that it’s unable to deal any damage, and asks Stretch to stab him. After several minutes pass, in which the two try to figure out where his internal organs are and how they can avoid them, Stretch stabs Spoon and Spoon yells that the knife didn’t break his skin. Such is the life of two heroin drug addicts but it’s shown in a funny light.
The film was shot in Detroit, so grit and realism abound. The film doesn’t pull any punches but also includes a ton of humor that, magically seems to belong. Without humor, the film would be a depressing, dirty, and unlikable one but still truthful, nevertheless. And even though the truth can hurt, my sides were hurting from laughter because this film is really genuinely funny. The audience also learns a thing or two about methadone clinics (withdrawing from methadone should involve professional care), the usefulness and simultaneous scariness of HIV tests, and the importance of knowing the hours of operations of certain establishments.
Tupac was a sort of god while alive, as a musician and a poet, and he also showed great potential for becoming a good actor. Tim Roth is always fantastic. Here Roth plays the crazy one but the way in which he contorts his face and rocks his head and body back and forth randomly is hysterical. Tupac and Roth make a terrific team and the flashback sequences that show them together with Cookie are really fun. The three of them have great chemistry together and seemed like real friends, and that kind of energy and camaraderie is hard to come by in films these days.
Find this film where available and watch it. It’s a great product of the 1990s and a true gem. Sadly it’s only currently available on DVD. Oh, well. Can’t win ‘em all.
New releases this week: Big Miracle, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Keyhole, My Afternoons with Margueritte, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Project X, Wanderlust