Allan Unger loves movies. More to the point, he loves action movies from the '80s and '90s. He loves big tough guys, and scheming villains, and bullets flying all over the place. Gridlocked is his love letter to classic action, a fun a violent little film that blends buddy cop and siege movie tropes.
When upstart actor Brody Walker (Cody Hackman) is charged with felony assault, he must plead guilty and agree to community service in order to save his career. He's partnered with former SRT boss David Hendrix (Dominic Purcell) for a ride-along. Hendrix brings Brody to his old stomping ground, the SRT headquarters, to meet his team and maybe learn how to not be a huge douchebag all the time. While there, the HQ comes under attack and Hendricks has to lead his team in defending the building while keeping Brody alive and safe.
The stoic Purcell is an excellent straight man for Hackman's douchey Brody Walker. Much like the audience, Hendrix has no patience for Brody, and his treatment of Brody is funny and satisfying. Frustratingly neither one of them really undergo any kind of personal growth—not that it's expected of Hendrix—but Brody's experiences provoke only a lateral move, from huge dbag to enormous tool. Not the most satisfying ending ever as far as personal journeys go.
But still, Gridlocked is gratifying in other ways. There's a lot of action here. I lot of fights and a lot of gun play. The cast was trained by members of the Joint Task Force, and it shows in how they handle their weapons and move through their location. The fights are brutal, and when a good hit lands well, you can feel it. However, although filmmakers took pains to shoot and edit the action as cleanly as possible, the film still suffers from too many close-ups and and too many cuts in general.
Also, it's too dark. And this is where I really start picking nits. I can appreciate the fact that HQ is running on emergency power during the siege, but unless there's some narrative advantage to low lighting, there's no point in shooting in the dark. Especially when we're talking about an action movie that's all gun battles and fist fights.
My second complaint about this movie is its geography. The fact that it's set in one location isn't a problem, but we never really get the lay of the land. Die Hard made a point of helping the audience orient itself in the space, and Gridlocked should've done the same thing. Sure, Hendrix knows where he's going, but Brody doesn't know his way around and neither do we. It's not a huge problem for the movie, but some sense of where this hallway is in relation to that room would have helped place the viewer inside the film.
Gridlocked was a welcome action romp in what has so far been a festival programme packed with slow burning genre films. It balances fun and funny with hardcore, quality violence. As promised, it does provide “Stratusfaction.”
Gridlocked screened with I Am Coming to Paris to Kill You. Billed as a neo-noir film, Coming to Paris, takes its title from a murder ballad of the same name by Timber Timbre. The song, which plays in the film, doesn't really evoke a sense of noir and the whole thing felt more Tarantino than Cohen Brothers. All that aside, I am Coming to Paris to Kill You is a good movie with a fun ending.
You can visit the Toronto After Dark Film Festival by clicking here
First Published on Oct. 21, 2015Share: