THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1997, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, February 3, 1997 TAG: 9702010091 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E5 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: 63 lines
``GET IN LINE.'' ``Take a number.''
``Have a seat.'' ``Wait your turn.''
``Come back tomorrow.''
That's what you hear in the seriocomedy ``Gridlock'd'' - a drug-infested tale that, surprisingly, has a good deal to say. If only it had said more of it and not sold out to conventional jokey shenanigans, this film could have been a surprise commentary on government bureaucracy. As it is, it's a rather intriguing opportunity missed.
The late Tupac Shakur co-stars with Tim Roth. They are a volatile twosome. Roth is one of the finest character actors emerging in films. His playing of the deceptively effete villain in ``Rob Roy'' earned him an Oscar nomination.
Shakur, a rap artist, is an intense and remarkably charismatic screen presence who was just beginning to get his acting technique disciplined. Undoubtedly, he would have emerged as a major star had he not been shot to death last September in Las Vegas.
Roth and Shakur play heroin-addicted jazz musicians in Detroit. The film opens with the third member of their band, Cookie, overdosing and going into a coma. Not the usual place to begin a comedy.
The guys drag her to the hospital; as a result of this experience, they decide to drop drugs.
They are two junkies who want to go straight, but when they seek rehab, they get social DIS-services. Forms. Lines. Caseworkers who are overworked and underpaid.
Spoon (Roth) is the wild, irresponsible one. Stretch (Shakur) is more level-headed.
Cookie is played with a British accent and a perhaps too-sophisticated air by Thandie Newton, who was seen as the mystery child-woman in ``Jefferson in Paris.''
In supporting roles, watch for Howard Hesseman (remember the fiasco when he posed as a would-be disc jockey in Norfolk?), Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit) and John Sayles (the director of ``Lone Star,'' one of the year's best films).
Will Spoon and Stretch make it to rehab? Will they turn their lives around?
There's something wonderfully ironic, and disturbingly humorous, about this premise. Director Vandie Curtis Hall (seen recently in the innovative and entertaining ``Romeo and Juliet'' treatise) explores some of the possibilities but sells out to box office in the long run. The F-word is uttered 96 times, as many as five uses in one sentence.
``Gridlock'd'' is a major social comedy waiting to happen.
The two charismatic actors are very much worth watching. This film is onto something, if only it had been developed. ILLUSTRATION: GRAMERCY PICTURES
Tupac Shakur, left, and Tim Roth play drug addicts trying to go
straight - with comedic results - in ``Gridlock'd''
Cast: Tupac Shakur, Tim Roth, Thandie Newton, Charles Fleischer,
Howard Hesseman, John Sayles
Director: Vondie Curtis Hall
MPAA rating: R (language, maybe a record for F-word)
Mal's rating: **1/2