Ethics & Public Policy Center

Gridlock’d

Published in EPPC Online on February 1, 1997



Gridlock’d is yet another attitude film, this one by Vondie Curtis Hall and starring the late Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth. They play a couple of junkie musicians in Detroit vaguely trying to “kick” (i.e. the habit) after Tupac’s girlfriend, played by Thandie Newton, overdoses one New Year’s Eve. They take the girl, Cookie, to the hospital and encounter the first of many roadblocks put in their way by bureaucrats and paper pushers. At the same time the two buddies, called Stretch (Roth) and Spoon (Shakur) are on the run from a couple of bad dudes trying to kill them. The director himself plays Mr Big, one D Repper, and his henchman is played by Tom Towles. They have many jolly adventures dodging these two and the police at the same time they are battling the bureaucracy to get into rehab. There is also a blind man with a dog called Nixon who flips out in the welfare offcie.

This leads me to believe that the film is supposed to be a comedy, but the prevailing humor is not of the yuk yuk kind but of the melancholic, fashionable, ghetto-cool kind which is obviously designed to showcase Tupac as movie star as well as rapper. The rap enters into the picture only at the end, though all the way through the idea of both Spoon, Tupac’s character, and Cookie being “poets” is made much of. “Poet,” you understand meaning not a person who writes poetry but one who is most generously endowed with attitude.There is some poetry it is true—a few inarticulate banalities chanted to a jazzy background on keyboard and bass with cigarette obligato. “The concept of time has us all f***ed,” we are told, or “Life is a traffic jam.”

I suppose there must be people, like Suze in SubUrbia, who consider it time well spent to listen to such stuff, so long as they can watch cool, attractive people being cool and attractive at the same time. I am not one of them. But even if you are a fan of the poetry of unrestraint and inarticulacy; even if you find a weird beauty in sentences in which every third word is one that an ever-diminishing number of uptight honkies consider obscenities, you may well find little to like here.

There is one scene in which Tim Roth bursts out with a tirade against the arrogance of little office holders in the language of lower middle class white angst: “This f***ing country’s falling apart,” he says, and especially in the case of “these people who have government jobs. My tax dollars are paying your f***ing wages!” he cries out. “I’m your boss.” But one can’t be quite sure that the humor (mild as it is) of this anger, coming from a perpetually hard-up junkie who presumably pays no taxes and is seeking to receive benefits from those who do, is even intended. In another scene there is some amusement to be had out of Spoon’s asking Stretch to stab him with a pen knife so that they can go to the hospital for treatment. But that’s about it.

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