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Gridlock’d (1997, Tupac Shakur, Tim Roth)

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In Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, Stretch (TIM ROTH), Spoon (TUPAC SHAKUR) and Cookie (THANDIE NEWTON) celebrate the success of their jazz trio. But celebrating for Stretch and Spoon means feeding their heroin habit while Cookie ‘celebrates’ by taking her first shot of the drug, which puts her in a coma. Taking her to hospital, the two men are unable to have her treated on medical insurance, and Spoon resolves to kick the habit and build a better life. Reluctantly, Stretch concurs.

To fund their rehabilitation – and a farewell fix – they steal money from local crimelord D-Reper (VONDIE CURTIS-HALL) and head for their dealer. Finding him murdered by the man they have just shortchanged, they steal his stash and attempt to enrol on a detox program, unaware that D-Reper is on their trail, with the police not far behind…

Finding comedy in junkies is not impossible and one-man-show Vondie Curtis Hall makes it, occasionally straying into polemic but also nicely populating his story with comedy villains and bumbling bureaucracy. The rapport between the two leads works to subvert their individual image, playing off each other with an affection and begrudging admiration and their efforts compensate for the more outrageous liberties of plot together with the casting of JOHN SAYLES (the director’s biggest influence) in a cameo, and an early appearance from Charlie’s Angels and Ally McBeal star, LUCY LIU. Shakur’s murder – at the age of 25, before the film’s release – ensured there would be no follow-up, as well as removing a promising screen talent, while giving the project that same air of taboo and excusable morbidity as The Crow.

production details
USA | 91 minutes | 1997

Writer and Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall

cast
Tupac Amaru Shakur as Ezekiel ‘Spoon’ Whitmore
Tim Roth as Alexander ‘Stretch’ Rawland
Thandie Newton as Barbara ‘Cookie’ Cook
Charles Fleischer as Mr. Woodson
Howard Hesseman as Blind Man
Vondie Curtis-Hall as D-Reper
John Sayles as Cop #1
Lucy Liu as Cee-cee