(Air Date: 01/29/97)
Viondi Curtis Hall's "Gridlock'd" is a comedy which he wrote, directed, and co-starred. With help from an amazingly talented cast, Hall pieces together a bizarrely surreal, gritty, hip, and ironic comedy about luck and the catch 22's of kicking heroine addiction in the motor city of Detroit.
The film moves quickly. The opening shot is an aftermath of a New Year's Eve celebration in a dank brick loft. Two underground art jazz musicians try in vain to revive a third who has lapsed into a heroine induced coma. The two musicians are Stretch and Spoon. Tupak Shakur plays Stretch, a smooth bass player with a friendly calm strength. Tim Roth plays Spoon, an unpredictable hyperactive pesky keyboardist. Thandie Newton is Cookie, the band's sultry spaced- out avant-garde jazz singer and poet who is barely alive after way too much heroine.
The frailty of Cookie's condition leads Stretch to reflect that perhaps Cookie's overdose might be a sign to stop taking heroine. He replies gravely that luck is running out. He and Spoon agree that it's time to kick their habit
The pace is set. Spoon and Stretch engage on a quest to enroll into a state-run detox program. But their path is continually detoured and blocked by rules and government clerks. Exasperated Spoon and Stretch seek to score from their regular drug dealer and they land into trouble with a murderous turf lord known as D Reaper played by Director Hall. Both good and bad luck toss Spoon and Stretch into situations where fate's maneuvers become the audience's entertainment.
Director Hall spares us drawn out scenes of waiting in line but animates the government agency clerks. The film's clerks' stretch the boundaries of believability into an overdone parody and the audience is forced fed the same frustration experienced by Stretch and Spoon. Luckily, Hall's script offers entertaining escape routes with his characters maneuvering and making creative turns from the result of good and bad luck.
Tim Roth is excellent when he's being a jerk or wisecrack but his slacker doped-up couch potato scenes are just passable. Tupak Shakur carries such a pervading presence that his role could have been more challenging to accommodate his talent. Thandie Newton brilliantly crafts the nuance of an arty cool chanteuse.
In "Gridlock'd" life is a traffic jam but the film seems to say that it's the fate of bad and good luck which gives us a fresh starting point to devise survival tactics to go after what matters to us.
Copyright 1997 Blue Velvet
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