Gridlock’d is a tale about two junkies who on new years day decide to kick it after bringing their OD’ing girlfriend to the emergency room. What follows is a mixed story about the two walking into walls of bureaucracy, drug related shootings and chases, and the fact that their best friend may die. To quote the tagline for the movie: Good time to kick.. Bad day to pick. And what a bad day it is, but do we have a bad day when watching this?
Gridlock’d was one of the three movies released after Tupacs untimely death and is one of the movies that actually require him to be an actor instead of a retread of his gangster persona he had onstage and in his previous two movies Above The Rim and Bullet. Here Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth play two movie-junkies named Stretch and Spoon. You know, the type you immediately like despite the fact that in real life you’ll avoid them like the plague. These characters are lighthearted and spirited and the only criminal activities they seem to be having other than shooting up is selling camera boxes filled with bricks to people thinking they’re getting a bargain. Well people who fall for that trick deserve it!
On new years eve their female friend Cookie, played by Thandie Newton, overdoses and needs to be rushed to a hospital which for junkies without a car is quite a hassle and shows us the first signs of the failing health care system in America; ambulances don’t get send, and when you bring in someone who’s minutes of not seconds away from dying you’re required to take a seat, wait your turn and fill in all kinds of forms before a doctor will take the time and effort to at least look at you. Eventually she does get hospitalized and while she’s fighting for her life Tupac decides to kick the habit and check himself into a government detox program. A bit reluctant Tim Roth decides to join him in this quest, one that will seem to be harder to accomplish than they’d ever imagined.
Gridlock’d is not so much about junkies detoxing but more a movie about how bad the system works concerning health care and detox programs. Spoon and Stretch go from office A to office B across town only to hear that the organization has relocated or that they need something like medicaid to enter a program which is really hard to get. The movie is somewhat of a complaint against the system that requires junkies, who mostly have no order in their lives at all other than getting high at set times, to go to “great lengths” to enlist in a detox program and work on a better future. This complaint is not totally fair as the movie takes place in one day and it recognizes that fact by giving one supervisor a speech about how you can not expect to be doing dope for an amount of time and then think the world should stop because one day they decide to stop being a dope fiend.
But it is an interesting statement the movie makes and movies like this, John Q. and Michael Moore’s Sicko really show that there is something wrong with the health care system in the U.S.
To lighten up the movie and to speed up the pace a little bit is a subplot about Spoon and Stretch who get into a beef with a drug dealing gangster whom Roth sold a video camera to and who later on claims they owe him drugs or money. This gives way to some chase sequences and some rather funny parts in which the two must use their wits to lose them, one entertaining scene is when a couple of cops appear on the scene and Roth eventually starts babbling about applying for a job at the police. Even though this subplot is entertaining it does distract form the core of the movie and has no further meaning other than to break the convention of the two junkies going from A to B to C and back to A again.
The movie is a bit imbalanced because of this and by setting it to one day it loses power in the punch it wants to make. Yes, there should be easier ways to enlist in rehab, the less junkies on the streets the better, but maybe the message would have been clearer if we were shown that it takes weeks if not months to get in. When a junkie just out of the blue says “I’m not going to get high no more” I never believe that. I’ve seen it too often with cigarettes. At 7 am it’s like “today I’m gonna quit” only to be doing one a 10 with a cup of coffee. That’s where the movie lacks that punch.
Over the years Tupac has shown us he’s got a great screen presence and has quite a range as an actor. This time is no different, leaving his gangster persona behind and giving a heartfelt performance about a junkie who’s sincere in getting clean. The movie does not give him a chance to portray a full habit-kicking junkie but it does give him enough scenes to portray a wide variety of emotions he pulls off seemingly effortless. Gridlock’d once more proves that with the death of Tupac Shakur we lost some great acting talent and it was probably a matter of time before the man would hit it big in acting.
Gridlock’d is an entertaining movie about bureaucracy and the health care system but lacks a real punch.