When it comes to the box office, the action movie is king of the mainstream universe. It’s probably the most internationally accessible type of film in the genre canon. And these days, the action films available to the movie going public have gotten pretty genre heavy. Most of them involve superheroes and sci-fi gadgets. Us nerds have taken over the big guns, big pecs, big tits realm and put everybody in spandex and body armour. But there are still action movies out there that don’t have repulsor rays or magic hammers. Some movies are still trying to keep it real, taking us back to a time when it was all about cops, crooks, shoot outs and beat downs. Gridlocked is one of those films.
Set in New York State, Gridlocked is the story of David Hendrix (played by Domenic Purcell), a tough-as-nails cop and former S.W.A.T. team leader forced into “ride-along” duty with Brody Walker (Cody Hackman), a movie star who partied a bit too hard and found himself in trouble with the law. This odd couple pairing find themselves in a bad situation when the police training facility they’re at gets attacked by mercenaries. It’s up to them and a few of Hendrix’s former teammates to protect the building from these soldiers of fortune. Easier said than done.
The film sports an interesting supporting cast with WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus as Gina, the sole female member of Hendrix’s former team who’s good with a gun but even more deadly with her bare hands. Danny Glover plays Sully, the desk sgt. who’s coming close to retirement (a role we’ve know him for most of our lives). Stephen Lang and Vinnie Jones round out the cast as Korver and Ryker, the villains of the piece. It’s a collection of performers that appear right at home in a film like this one.
A tribute to the action films of the 80s and early 90s, this throwback shows much love to the genre. One cannot watch this movie without thinking of all the buddy cop films from back in the day. This tribute is made all the more evident by the inclusion of Glover, star of one of the biggest buddy cop franchises of all time. Just seeing Glover as a cop again gave this viewer the “warm and fuzzies”, a feeling one doesn’t usually get with a film of this nature.
There are numerous tips of the hat to the cop movies of that era. Assault on Precinct 13 is the most obvious as the team is trying to protect a stronghold from outside forces, but there’s a lot more than that. The main storyline between Purcell and Hackman’s characters is very reminiscent of the James Woods/Michael J. Fox comedy The Hard Way. The idea of a cop having to cater to a movie star and not get him killed while doing “real” work is one that’s still a lot of fun to watch even today and both Purcell and Hackman play well in this dynamic. The humour brings a great amount of levity to a movie that could’ve easily gone down a dark, brooding path.
The film doesn’t beat around the bush as it moves into its main story rather quickly, giving the audience only what it needs to move the plot. We get a good take on Hendrix and Walker as they are the driving force of the story. The rest of the cast is there to service this plot. This is more than fine for the crew of cops as they’re following Purcell’s character’s lead, but there could’ve been a bit more time taken to flesh out bad guys Korver and Ryker. While their motivations are sound and they do a good job with what they got, they don’t feel as big a threat as they need to be. Thankfully, there’s not too much time to think about this as the action comes hot and heavy throughout the film.
The actions beats of the film are a lot a fun and are peppered throughout the film in all the right places. Just when you feel like a scene needs something to happen, business picks up. There’s never a dull moment. The dialogue is a bit cliched at points but in a good way. It’s almost like if the characters didn’t say some corny lines, there would be something wrong.
The movie delivers in bringing an authentic old school action to life yet surprisingly finds a way to not beat you over the head with it. I know I’ve been making reference to the homage that’s happens throughout the picture but the movie is still able to be its own thing. Unlike the large number of Expendables clones that are heading straight to Netflix these days, this movie understands the difference between a tribute and a copycat. There are no winks to the camera (well, one wink but it’s well deserved). The characters, while a bit under-developed, are their own. It has the feeling of many of the films I’ve mentioned without trying to straight up be those films.
If you’re a fan of classic cop action films of the Die Hard variety, you’ll probably get a kick out of Gridlocked. The film is showing tonight at The Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The show is sold out but there is still an opportunity to get rush tickets if you line up an hour before the show. Stars Trish Stratus and Cody Hackman, as well as director Allan Ungar will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening. If you can make it out, we hope to see you there.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!