Movie Review - Gridlock'd
Dark comedy fuels excellent 'Gridlock'd'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Check your expectations at the door for Gridlock'd, a stylish, painful, pitch-black comedy about drug addicts on a nightmare hunt for rehab.

Written and directed by actor Vondie Curtis Hall, best known as Dr. Dennis Hancock on the CBS drama Chicago Hope, the film blends savvy and sour-mash humor with bone-deep sadness that recalls predecessors as varied as After Hours and Trainspotting.

The humor springs from the film's insight into the bureaucratic guts of modern society -- as seen from the margins -- and from co-star Tim Roth's smash-and-grab scene stealing.

Gridlockd The sadness is born out of Mr. Curtis Hall's empathy for the huddled masses who live and die in government waiting rooms -- and to the arresting presence of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, who died after a drive-by shooting in September.

He plays Spoon, one-third of a trio that includes fellow musician-druggie Stretch (Mr. Roth) and singer Cookie (Thandie Newton).

After Cookie's accidental overdose on New Year's Eve, Spoon resolves to find treatment to get off drugs. He tells Stretch, in a moment that rumbles with irony, ''Lately, I've been feeling like my luck's running out.''

In this movie, Mr. Shakur shows he had the makings of an outstanding actor. He's confident, he's poised and he delivers a performance of startling vulnerability.

Casting Mr. Shakur opposite a superlative old pro like Mr. Roth took originality, but the movie is full of unexpected moments -- some of them horrific and cold-blooded.

Even the soundtrack, compiled by music supervisor Pilar McCurry, is unexpected, dominated by the jazzy score of composer Stewart Copeland (The Police) that's intermixed with exotic variations on rap, spoken word performances, even occasional Christmas carols.

Gridlock'd is an impressive debut for Mr. Curtis Hall as both writer and director -- one that promises good things to come.

(R; drug use, profanity, violence, sexual situations) Tim Roth, Tupac Shakur, Thandie Newton. 91 minutes. At National Amusements, Danbarry Middletown.