In celebration of Tupac’s birthday today, let’s take a look at one of his final films, Gridlock’d, directed by Vondie Curtis-Hall and starring Tupac Shakur, Tim Roth, and Thandie Newton.

Gridlock’d is the story of a good premise executed competently. In terms of writing and directing, the movie is solid but not particularly interesting, which is odd considering the subject matter and the cast. The highlights here are the performances, and the chemistry between Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur’s characters. They play extremely close friends, where Tim Roth is kind of an aggressive and bumbling idiot, and Tupac is the straight man, a level-headed guy.

They both want to get clean, inspired by the recent hospital trip Thandie Newton’s character had to undergo. This is a drug movie, and it isn’t a glorification. It uses substance abuse as a subject to create a satirical world that these two characters must deal with. It’s easy to get addicted, but as we discover, not so easy to get off. The entire city seems to be against them as they try to kick, from the guys behind the desks at clinics and stations to the blaxploitation-esque badguys roaming the streets spraying bullets and snarky one-liners.

Even though the subject matter is serious, it’s been dealt with in more serious terms elsewhere, for example A Scanner Darkly. Gridlock’d goes for the laughs, and this creates the juxtaposition to the tragic. There’s also the sense that perhaps we should be getting angry, as the sympathetic plight of the heroes makes everyone around them a villain.

The story is okay, and the plot moves along fairly well. It’s an entertaining flick, but not quite what I expected. Still, it’s better than Poetic Justice.

Tim Roth is absolutely hilarious. He’s good in everything, but here he plays this pretty wacked out dude with a temper. One of the most memorable scenes for Podcast Co-Host and I was when he orders lunch at some diner. Tupac as a dramatic actor I think continued to surprise everyone. From what I can gather based on people like Ice Cube, rappers get to be in one good movie, and then they take on some crap. One of the things that Tupac was always concerned about in his music was selling out – he didn’t want to become another Jay-Z, as it were, so the movies he was in were consistently heartfelt and dealt with these urban troubles.

One last thing of note: I believe that there is one of those scenes in this movie where two characters are talking in an unbroken conversation, despite the fact that we don’t follow them for the duration of the conversation, we cut every time they enter or exit a room. There is time lapse between some of these cuts, yet the conversation remains unbroken. This is common in a lot of movies – were they just not talking when the camera was off them? I like to think so.