Directed by Allan Ungar.
Starring Dominic Purcell, Cody Hackman, Stephen Lang, Vinnie Jones, Trish Stratus, Danny Glover, Saul Rubinek and Richard Gunn.
Former SWAT leader David Hendrix and hard-partying movie star Brody Walker must cut their ride-along short when a police training facility is attacked by a team of mercenaries.
They say not to judge a book by its cover, and that’s a good piece of advice. But here’s another one: learn to look for the red flags. When staring down a movie like Gridlocked on your Netflix queue, your local Redbox, or wherever else you may come across it, it’s an important skill to be able to read the signs that identify this as something not to be given a second look. Is the cover a generic, unremarkable photoshop job? Is the cast populated by c-action regulars, with perhaps one once-recognizable industry veteran thrown in for name recognition;? Is the title at all memorable and interesting, or is it just a cool sounding word or phrase that looks to have nothing to do with the plot of the film? If so, then what you’re looking at is probably exactly what it appears to be: a cheap, nondescript action/thriller, made to be sold to a streaming service for a quick buck. Like, for example, Gridlocked.
The film stars Dominic Purcell as David Hendrix, the prototypical gruff, no nonsense supercop. Hendrix is paired with Brody Walker, a Hollywood actor forced to ride along with Hendrix in order to get out of a potentially career-ending DUI. From this, you’d expect Gridlocked to fall into the classic mismatched buddy cop mold, with Brody’s comical ineptitude cramping Hendrix’ style and effectiveness as they become embroiled in some action-packed adventure where they can only save the day by working together. Well, this is only somewhat the case. Hendrix takes Brody to a remote SWAT training facility to meet his old unit, but no sooner do they arrive than the facility comes under attack from a band of highly-trained mercs. The facility, it seems, is also secretly used as a store house for highly valuable seized assets. From there, it becomes an ensemble as Brody, Walker, and Walker’s old SWAT buddies have to fend off the attackers.
It’s almost admirable how, for the first half or so, Gridlocked dutifully marches along checking off action movie cliches with efficiency and gusto. The commander of the baddies just happens to be Hendrix’ former CO, the black guy dies, there’s a betrayal from inside the group, it’s all a big gingerbread house made out of cliches and formula. And in this and most other regards you could call it, at most, competent. The boom mic never strays into the shot, the action scenes are technically fine, if uniformly dull and unremarkable. Formally and structurally it’s totally inoffensive, never quite straying into the realms of either “good” or “bad” (or at least not “terrible”), but camping out in the middle ground between the two.
If the film has any major failure beyond being defiantly boilerplate, it’s the overly-long runtime. Part of this comes from the whole Brody character, who goes from plot to subplot once the action starts. Given that most of the film’s first half-hour is devoted to setting up his character and his reason for being here, it seems strange that he becomes a glorified side-character later on. It’s an indicator that Gridlocked probably went through some major revisions during its production cycle, perhaps going from a throwback buddy cop movie to a much smaller Assault on Precinct 13-style affair after some budget cuts. Brody’s whole storyline, and indeed his very presence, seems almost vestigial, and ultimately unnecessary. But even allowing for that, the film still drags interminably in its last third, the lowest point being an almost incomprehensible scene in which Brody is waterboarded with urine as a treatment for Chlorine gas inhalation. Yes, you read that entirely right. Waterboarded. With urine.
The cast, C-action all-stars to a man, all do exactly what’s expected of them, no more and no less. Dominic Purcell scowls at things and grunts. Stephen Lang, as the villainous Korver, shoots underlings and one unfortunate elderly couple to display how terrible he is. Vinnie Jones, as Korver’s henchman, seems to spend most of the movie patiently awaiting his big showdown with Hendrix, the one where he gets to tell Hendrix that he’s always been soft before being dispatched in some absurd fashion. Trish Stratus prowls around as the lone female member of the SWAT team, shooting a target dummy in the crotch and declaring herself as a lesbian with her first line of dialogue, because orientation and character are the same thing, right? Danny Glover, bless him, is trotted out as the old security guard and before you ask: yes, he says his line from Lethal Weapon and yes, it is the cheapest of cheap moves this film could have taken.
Gridlocked‘s place in Blu-ray bargain bins and on streaming services is already picked out for it, and it probably won’t even get much action there. Neither bad enough to be entertaining or good in any way shape or form, this is one of those films that simply is. You hit play, an hour and fifty minutes of uninspired cliche oozes out of your screen, and then it’s over.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★