GRIDLOCK'd (1997)

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Released 2-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 87:23
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Vondie Curtis Hall

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Tim Roth
Tupac Shakur
Thandie Newton
Vondie Curtis Hall
Tom Towels
John Sayles
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Stewart Copeland

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Musicians Spoon (Tupac Shakur) and Stretch (Tim Roth) share a loft with singer Cookie (Thandie Newton) in a desultory part of Los Angeles. As the story opens, Spoon and Stretch discover that Cookie has overdosed on the heroin she took earlier in the night. After failing to revive her, they endeavour to get her to the nearest emergency ward before time runs out. In a moment of fatalistic clarity beside his comatose girlfriend, Spoon determines to kick his habit: "We don't even get high on the s*** no more. We just do it to keep from getting sick." His friend Stretch is cynical, but together they try to make it happen by going into detox. Apart from the bundle of bureaucratic red tape that threatens to choke their public health system, Spoon and Stretch must also negotiate roving police officers and the attentions of crime boss D-Reper (writer/director Vondie Curtis-Hall), who believes that our boys stole three ounces of his blow from a dead acquaintance.

Packaged with the the tagline, "Good time to kick...Bad day to pick," GRIDLOCK'd is a low-budget comedy of errors about life on the streets. The influence of Trainspotting is obvious, although GRIDLOCK'd only has shades of that film's charm, wit and style. This is a modest affair that's not interested in breaking new ground or winning Academy Awards. It's not even dirty enough to enjoy on a schlock level, despite numerous displays of substance abuse (which earned the film its R 18+ rating), constant profanity, and a svelte Thandie Newton (Mission Impossible 2) flashing her wares.

The rest of the cast handle the unchallenging material adequately. Rapper Tupac Shakur looks almost too comfortable in his role as Spoon, while Tim Roth is the impotent, fast-talking clown who gets chewed out by angry public servants and calls the wrong people "nigger". Watch for the great Tom Towels (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) as D-Reper's henchman, John Sayles as a cop, and Lucy Liu in a small part playing a dope dealer's girlfriend. Vondie Curtis-Hall has been in a string of mainstream features including Falling Down and Die Hard 2. I really cared for none of the characters in this film, making it a weightless and uninspiring kind of experience.

The main reason to see GRIDLOCK'd is for Tupac in his second-last movie role before his death in 1996.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


GRIDLOCK'd is shown full-frame, with the compositions by DOP Bill Pope (The Matrix, Darkman, Army of Darkness) falling inside the 1.85:1 theatrical safe area. Except for the lack of 16x9 enhancement, the picture quality is fine.

Sharpness is good. Shadow details come through when they need to and blacks are opaque. There are no glaring examples of edge enhancement, either. GRIDLOCK'd has a glossy sheen to it.

Colours are rich and vibrant, with no oversaturation, bleed or low level noise.

A layer of film grain is more apparent in some shots than in others. I would have been perturbed if I had not seen any, because the subject matter and locations almost demand it. Small specks and blotches show up occasionally, otherwise this is a clean transfer. Hard edges betray some aliasing, but instances are rare enough to ignore.

Now six years old, GRIDLOCK'd has aged better than expected, though there is room for improvement.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


As with the video, one could say that the audio is also not 16x9 enhanced, or more to the point, it is only Dolby Digital 2.0. This is probably the same mix that came with the letterboxed NTSC laserdisc.

Dialogue is discernible at all times. Sync and distortion cause no problems, either.

The original music by Stewart Copeland (Rumble Fish, Talk Radio, Very Bad Things) is, like most of the film, predominantly front-staged. Parts of it reflect the jazz influences of the protagonists, while the rest uses fairly generic but nonetheless effective Hollywood cues. 2Pac contributes a song over the initial crawl of end credits. I was hoping that the score would have a lot more hip-hop running through it.

The soundtrack is lively enough, throwing the music and foley effects around the room at least within the limitations of Dolby Pro-Logic. The volume just needs boosting to inject it with enough presence to be satisfying. Redirected low frequency sound thumps out of the subwoofer to assist the music score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



The menus are static with 1.33:1 graphics and no sound.

Trailer (1:44)

Full frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Like the film itself, the trailer is fairly unremarkable.

Stills (x10)

These are black and white production stills, shown in a window too small to be of any value.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 4 DVD misses out on: The Region 1 DVD misses out on: The Region 1 disc is the marginal winner. Note that I found many conflicting reports about the existence of a Dolby Digital 5.1 option. Virtually all online catalogues listed the 5.1 track, whereas my Region 1 retail outlet and a site devoted to comparisons only mentioned the Dolby surround track. I suspect a packaging error may be the culprit here, but I'll post updates as more details come to light.


The title GRIDLOCK'd refers to the way life sometimes boxes us in, leaving no room to move and forcing us to address long-standing issues. Spoon and Stretch find themselves in such a jam with luck they may triumph, but nothing is certain. I found the movie a little shallow, although its critical reception was generally favourable.

It was nice to see GRIDLOCK'd, albeit in a no-frills presentation. The video, though solid, would benefit from anamorphic treatment, and the audio survives in the outdated Pro-Logic format.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Monday, September 23, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

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