Gridlock'd full movie review - Intelligent black comedy that shows both sides of the argument
On New Years Eve, jazz musicians Stretch, Spoon and Cookie are using when Cookie overdoses. This is all the motivation Spoon needs to kick and both he and Stretch resolve to give it up.
They spend the next day trying to get into a rehab clinic while also getting accidentally mixed up in a murder enquiry.
This is a very dark satire on the bureaucracy of the US healthcare system - a wonderful system if you can afford it, unfortunately not for the millions of disenfranchised who are outside the system. Like Stretch and Spoon. The film shows the frustration they experience with a system that is not focused on the needs of their customers but is layer upon layer of paperwork and bureaucracy. The film shows them getting the round around when all they want to do is kick. However this is not all one sided - the film is intelligent enough to know that both clients and system need to give some. As one of the health care workers says "we have rules. You expect the world to stop just because today you've decided to kick. Like we've all been waiting for this day for 10 years!"
This is very clever because the film doesn't want to be too sympathetic to junkies after all. However it also rightly sees the major problems that exist in the system. The subplot involving the drug-related murder is a good addition to the plot as it compliments the range of problems they are experiencing, and somehow it doesn't seem to fit in too badly with the story even though it relies on several coincidences to get it moving.
The direction is good, the flashbacks are well handled visually and in terms of placing them within the film. The feel of the film is gritty and unrealistic, the drug use is viewed neutrally - the good side of it sits beside the bad side and neither is pushed more than the other. Vondie Curtis Hall is a great actor (with a cameo role here and plenty of great performances in Passion Fish, Drop Squad, Crooklyn), here he shows that he is a good director as well (I can forgive him for Glitter!). But the story is what makes this film - it's dark right up till the end, but the ending feels like a cop out - is it a flashback or is it a happy ending? I don't know.
The performances are roundly good. The chemistry between Tupac and Roth is natural, with Tupac playing it calm and Roth being more angry and aggressive. Both are convincing - Tupac is a good example of a musician crossing over into film and giving a good performance - Master P et al please take note and stop being so arrogant! This is a fitting testimony to Tupac's talent. Roth is good as always with his American accent. Thandie Newton is very good looking and is a good actress but here she's not totally convincing - epically during the jazz scenes where she doesn't really have the voice to be convincing. Outside of these three the rest of the cast throws up some well known faces - Vondie Curtis Hall is good and Lucy Liu makes a brief pre-fame appearance.
Overall a solid drama that is a good satire that is greatly helped by the chemistry between Tupac and Tim Roth.