Living in the DC area, I have come to know what gridlock is, not only in terms of Beltway traffic, but political bureaucracy as well. The latter is what Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth experience as two Detroit junkies who try to kick the habit, but just can't seem to get anywhere due to gridlock of the system.
The two main characters Spoon (Shakur) and Stretch (Roth) decide to go clean and sober after rushing Cookie (Thandie Newton), Spoon's girlfriend, to the hospital after she OD's on New Year's Eve. The two are scared straight by Cookie's incident and resolve that they no longer want to continue living the way they do and go in search of a rehab program. Here is where they experience the gridlock. The hapless duo trek around the city going from one agency to another only to find that the public services system is a series of Catch-22's. When they attempt to enroll into a rehab center they discover that they need to have a Medicaid card to do that. When they try to obtain Medicaid, they are told they need to be on Welfare first. Applying for Welfare can take weeks, which is not what the junkies want to hear because they want to "kick it" today. Then they find out the rehab center they want to go to requires a lot of paperwork and a 10-day waiting period, and only takes alcoholics. Then after getting the elusive paperwork filled out, they can't turn it in.
It seems that the frustrations are not only experienced by Spoon and Stretch, but the overburdened employees of the social services who deal with it every day and decide to lash back. In an earlier scene, a nurse, after being yelled at by Spoon and Stretch for forcing them to fill out a sea of forms while Cookie slips deeper into a coma, delivers a scathing comeback describing her aggravation. Later, a Welfare office employee makes a caustic diatribe about how the world is supposed to just stop for addicts the moment that they decide to go straight. It may just make you pause and think next time you get frustrated at a government worker. They are probably as bound up in the red tape as much as you are.
The weight of the movie is carried in the dialogue, and has the roughness of and is similar to Pulp Fiction. In fact, if you liked Pulp Fiction you should like this movie too. Like the Tarantino film, it is set between amusing comedy and grim reality. Amid the desperate attempts at finding help, cops and crooks chase the two around the Motor City. This breaks up the heaviness of the film's main theme, which shows the ugliness of the U.S. government's ineffectiveness at administering social services, or in this case, disservices. The way Gridlock'd plays out answers several questions as to why the War on Drugs is not working; talk about just saying no.
The only thing that this film underscored, other than the administrative standstill faced by Spoon and Stretch is the immense talent for acting possessed by Tupac Shakur and now that talent is no more. Gridlock'd was a final testament to Tupac's ability and an ominous one too. He says in the movie that "I feel like my luck is running out." Too bad for him, and us, his luck wasn't held up in gridlock.