In Gridlocked, Dominic Purcell plays David Hendrix, a Strategic Response Team (a type of swat team) leader who after taking a bullet in the line of duty is on forced leave from his squad. Hendrix spends his days single-handedly kicking down doors and laying the smack down on petty thugs while pining to rejoin his former unit. Enter Brody Walker (Cody Hackman), a Justin Bieber-esque movie star with a downward spiraling career and a penchant for indiscretions that leaves him facing jail time. Walker’s PR/Legal team cut a deal placing him in a community service program as Hendrix’s tag-a-long, and surprise, surprise, the two don’t get along. Just when Gridlocked looks to be ripping pages right out of the 48 Hrs. and Ride Along movie making handbooks, it provides one more swerve. Hendrix takes Brody to his former headquarters, a highly secure and well-armed training facility on the same night that it’s raided by a team of mercenaries. Outnumbered, outgunned, and with a possible mole among them, the only way for Hendrix, Brody and the Strategic Response Team to survive the night is to put all their training to the test.
There are multiple aspects of the Gridlocked that don’t work, yet somehow the film’s flaws imbue it with a sort of charm, like a puppy that becomes cuter because one ear is way bigger than the other. Dominic Purcell delivers a vapid performance as Hendrix. Purcell’s emotionless face and monotone delivery would more appropriate along-side the Ambian addled, morning wine drinking Real Houswives of Beverly Hills. Purcell commits to the lifeless performance so damn hard that his character’s rock solid steadiness becomes endearing by the end of the film. What doesn’t get any better are the movie’s jokes. Many of the film’s attempts at humor miss the mark entirely. The jokes are so bad that Gridlocked borders on open satire of the genre, like the action equivalent of what Scary Movie is to horror flicks. By the end of the film, these rotten jokes become less of an agitation; maybe it just becomes easier to tune them out as the movie slowly gets better.
Gridlocked’s director, Allan Ungar, doesn’t bother to hide the film’s multiple cinematic influences, the most glaring examples being The Hard Way, Die Hard and Assault on Precinct 13. When done well, paying homage to one’s cinematic predecessors shows a respect to the genre while also contributing to the medium — think Tarantino’s martial arts epic Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 or Wes Craven’s nod to horror films in Scream. However, staying within the contours of someone else’s definitive work is like filling in between the lines of a coloring book — it’s only shading in another artist’s artistic vision. Not every film has to push the medium’s boundaries, but when movies adhere so strictly to genre tropes they feel derivative and uninteresting. Now, that being said….
Everyone loves a good film, but a good film isn’t for everyone, and in Gridlocked we have a shining example of this concept. Moviegoers tastes are subjective so while Gridlocked is not a great movie, it still provides a great time. Anyone who enjoys turning off their brain and letting 110-minutes of cheesy one-liners and insane violence wash over them are in for a treat. Those looking for the intricate choreography of SPL 2: A Time for Consequences need not apply. Gridlocked’s action is akin to using a chainsaw to slice a watermelon; it’s quick, messy, and doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s oh-so-fun to watch. The film’s first half provides standard VOD action movie fare, but then things ramp up exponentially in the second half where Gridlocked becomes a furious storm of bullets, blood, and face-punches. The action is brutal, unrelenting, and provides several, “I can’t believe I just saw that” moments.
Gridlocked is not a film for movie snobs; it’s not supposed to be. This flick has no aspirations of being the action equivalent of a Federico Fellini film. Gridlocked is an unrelenting, unapologetic throwback to the no-brainer all brawn action movies of the 80’s. If watching highly skilled fighters shoot each other in the face is your jam, you can do a lot worse than Gridlocked.