Gridlock’d (1997) Tupac Shakur And Tim Roth Are Spoken Word Jazz Band Dope Fiends

When a film opens with a conversation about penis implants and, later, a N word discussion, you can’t help but think the scriptwriters were trying to channel some Quentin Tarantino vibes. Furthermore, when one of the characters feels like Pumpkin from Pulp Fiction (1994) had dumped his crazy girlfriend, Honey Bunny, and ran off to join a jazz band, you can’t help but smile. However, Gridlock’d, really is it’s own movie. It’s shot very stylish, has a frantic paced script, features a deep strong message and best of all, you get a wonderful chemistry between it’s two leads. It might slip off the rails into slap stick territory in the last quarter but it’s hard not to like it for it. It’s a quirky buddy movie. So what’s it about?

It’s New Years Eve in Detroit. Three close friends shoot the shit, heroin, jokes and their love together in their apartment. They are a trio. A spoken word jazz band called Eight Mile Road on the verge of getting picked up. On vocals is the svelte Cookie (Thandiwe Newton). On bass and back up vocals is the cool Spoon (Tupac Shakur) leaving stoned Stretch (Tim Roth) on keys. They’d just finished a gig. It had gone well. A music executive had shown a great deal of promise. Cookie was excited. She’d been slipped a bag of powder, she’d managed to keep off it whilst her two friends were constantly wasted. It was time to celebrate, she wanted to try the high… It doesn’t go well…

Cookie OD’s! Distraught and stoned out of their minds, Spoon and Stretch frantically try to get their beloved friend to the hospital. It’s Detroit, it’s New Years Eve. No one will help, no taxi will stop, they can’t call an ambulance, they don’t have health insurance, the system is broke. Eventually they make it, with everything against them. Will she live or die? No one knows…

Gridlock’d‘s fundamental message is the contemptuous government bureaucracy and mockery of a broken health care system. Based on writer and director Vondie Curtis-Hall own, early life, experiences. Being young in a band surrounded by people doing drugs, getting the idea that your creativity will become enhanced. Before you know it, you become dependent and caught in a vicious circle. “We went to try and get into rehab. Ended up wandering around from place to place, no one giving us any help. I remembered that when it came to writing my first movie.“. This is the premise of the film.

Tagline –Life is a traffic jam!

With the trauma and drama of the night before, Spoon has a moment of epiphany. He has to get clean, get off the smack and sort his life out. Stretch on the other hand is happy getting smashed. His moment of realisation hadn’t come to him yet. However, Spoon was his brother, they were tight. He’d do anything to help his friend out, even if it meant going through the pain of detox. Gridlock’d follows these two friends struggle to get that so needed help. A rehabilitation program, get help with Medicare, be given methadone, desperately any help to kick the life destructive habit. We follow their odyssey, travelling to one place to another. Met with disappointment and despair. Whilst on this arduous mission they encounter countless run-ins with the law, the homeless, other drug addicts, dealers and dope fiends. To make matters worse, they happen to upset a local hood gangster. with the cool, scary name of D Reper. Played by the director, Vondie Curtis-Hall himself. D Reper and his henchman (Tom Towles) add to the comic side of the film along with a recurring character, a blind man (Howard Hesseman) and his rottweiler dog.

It’s a great film. I really enjoyed it. We all know Tim Roth is an amazing actor but apart from Juice (1992) I’d never seen Tupac act. It’s really sad to see just how good and likable he is in this film. At the ridiculously young age of 25 he would soon be gunned down and pronounced dead on September 13, 1996. Gridlock’d would be released posthumously with the end credit dedication “For Tupac “One Love” R.I.P.

Flash backs to the three friends are filtered through the film with negative exposure fading back into colour. These give background to Eight Mile Road and I have to admit I laughed out loud seeing Tim Roth with his shades in jazz piano mode. You also get more Cookie moments with the slender Thandiwe Newton walking around in her tighty whities and showing rather more than expected. I’m a big fan of Westworld so I’ve seen it all and more, before. Hehe…

What makes this movie is the buddy angle. On paper there’s no way you can imagine Tupac and Tim Roth together. Probably the reason I never watched it at the time. But you couldn’t be more wrong, these two have such a rapport. Their relationship is rock solid, brothers. They’ve got each others backs. Getting wasted together, sat for hours sleeping and waiting in chairs, queuing forever, walking from one disappointment to the next. Even under gun fire and dodging police. They smoke a hundred cigarettes and even sword fight sharing the toilet. These two are tight. Their close frendship solidifies the movie.

Wolfman Rating 7.5/10 IMDB Rating 6.9/10

Feel free to let me know if you’ve seen this one, got recommendations or factoids or just want to say hello… 

Big love and keep watching those square shaped screens…. Mikey Wolfman

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) Thatchers Britain With Gay Love and Soap Suds

The 80s was a weird and wonderful time. My era. Generation X. Born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s. Video rental, smoking cigarettes behind the school bike shed, underage drinking, sniffing glue!…… and those dreaded “Thatcher Years“! Good old Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dividing the nation. Tory rule went on forever. It always felt bleak times. Constantly surrounded by the threat of nuclear destruction, the narrative of pop culture at the time. Music videos and TV shows were awash with images of the triad of superpowers. America, The UK and Russia, all with itchy trigger fingers ready to push the button… Sniff some more glue! Vast unemployment swept across the land. Three million and counting were numbers said to be out of work and claiming benefits on the dole. The miners strikes, Greenham Common CND protests and the AIDS epidemic filled the news cycle… Pass the Evo-Stik!

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Which Way Is Up? (1977) How Do Three Richard Pryor’s Fit In With Today’s Changing Climate

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor poster three pryor's for the price of one

There’s not many Richard Pryor films I hadn’t rented on VHS or managed to record from a TV broadcast. Such a brilliant comic and mighty fine actor. My whole pre-teens to my twenties the double act of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder never left my screens. I can drop into Stir Crazy at anytime and still be in fits of laughter. I’d even seen all the others like Brewster’s Millions with John Candy and that bizarre one called The Toy! There was great fun to be had with Critical Condition and Moving plus he could also turn in a superb dramatic performance alongside the best of them like with Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto in Blue Collar. One that had gone right under my radar was Which Way Is Up? Reading that he plays three different characters I just couldn’t wait to watch it. Continue reading

Rubin And Ed (1991) Trent Harris Unleashes Crispin Glover And Howard Hesseman In A Cult Movie Gem

Rubin and Ed (1991) Trent Harris porters beers signed DVD wolfman cult film

Signed copy by director Trent Harris too!

Now I knew I was gonna be in for a surreal trip so I lubricated up the old mind gears with a few bottles of strong, dark as oil, ale. The first line on the back of the DVD box reads “A delirious detour from the ordinary!“. I grab another bottle and guzzled back more of the good stuff. With a chance encounter with this curious cult Rubin and Ed DVD flying into my mitts from afar, I just couldn’t get my hairy arse sat down quick enough. “Right here I go, I’m going inContinue reading