This is the first of three movies that Tupac filmed before he was killed, but that wasn’t released until after his death. Written and directed by Vondie Curtis-Hall, Tupac played a musician who went by the name of “Spoon” (no real name ever given). He played bass in a spoken-word band called 8 Mile Road with his friends, a woman named “Cookie” (played by Thandie Newton), who did the vocals, and a man named “Stretch” (Tim Roth), who played piano. Spoon and Stretch are both heroin addicts who also engage in other little petty crimes. Cookie is originally clean, but after trying heroin on Spoon and Stretch’s urging she overdoses, and they have to rush her to the hospital. Being broke, and unable to hail a cab, the two men carry Cookie all the way to the hospital themselves. This incident convinces Spoon that it’s time to kick his addiction, and he convinces Stretch to try to get clean with him. But they quickly realize that this will not be as easy as they’d hoped
They try to enroll in a government rehab program but face multiple roadblocks in the form of indifferent, and sometimes outright hostile, government workers and bureaucracy. Things get even worse when they discover that their drug dealer is dead, and the police suspect that they may have something to do with it, while other gangsters also come after them because Stretch had taken the last of the dealer’s stash, and they want it back.
Suffice to say, this film doesn’t have what I’d call a happy ending, but it still remains a gripping film. Curtis-Hall (who also has a supporting role as a gangster) manages to capture the sheer hopelessness that addicts must feel as they try to get clean while facing a scornful public. And both Tupac and Roth are extremely convincing in their roles. Throughout the film, as their lives continue on a downward spiral, despite their best intentions, we’re nevertheless able to see that, for all their faults, Spoon and Stretch are just a couple of guys who made some mistakes. They’re junkies, but they’re not all bad, and you find yourself rooting for them to make it. Tupac, in particular, stands out in this film, giving what is probably his best performance. By the time that this film had come out, he had spent the past few years of his life so publicly embracing the “thug” persona, that seeing him in this film, where he shows a range of emotions and vulnerability and even humor, I feel like this could have been his breakout role in a way that POETIC JUSTICE was supposed to be, but wasn’t.
I give this film a grade of:
Gridlock’d can be purchased on DVD via Amazon.com