(Vondie Curtis-Hall, USA, 1997)


Gridlock’d is loud, showy, bombastic – and a complete waste of time.

Wasted time happens also to be the film’s main subject. Spoon (Tupac Shakur) and Stretch (Tim Roth) are two bohemian, streetwise musos with a drug habit. An overdose suffered by their associate Cookie (Thandie Newton) persuades them to go into rehabilitation.

Managing to actually get checked into the proper institution in the correct way quickly becomes a bureaucratic nightmare for Stretch and Spoon. While frantically trying to avoid an irate drug dealer (played by the film’s director, Vondie Curtis-Hall), the pair dash from office to office, running up against innumerable complications.

This familiar screwball premise – exploring the niggly irritations of daily social life – rubs uneasily against the film’s more grandiose intentions. Like a very bad rap song, Gridlock’d blares alarmist messages about poverty, drugs, urban disintegration and the indifference of government. This banal tabloid sloganeering is cancelled out every time the film indulges in essentially juvenile passages of counter-culture humour reminiscent of Cheech and Chong.

The film is full of absurd posturing on every level. Mundane sequences of our tawdry heroes sitting in waiting rooms turn into ludicrous rock-video montages at every opportunity. A collage of rap songs is plastered over the plot from start to end in a desperate attempt to inject energy, rhythm and ironic comment.

And worst of all is Roth’s hilarious attempt to look like a cool jazz pianist, hunched uncomfortably over a keyboard.

© Adrian Martin July 1997

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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