Review Written by Tron Delapp
Director: Allan Ungar
Starring: Dominic Purcell, Vinnie Jones, Trish Stratus, Stephen Lang, Danny Glover
Every year, the Fantastic Fest Film Festival produces one of the most interesting line-ups of movies for the discerning viewer who would rather watch something out of the ordinary than the standard mainstream fare given to us by chain movie theaters. It also makes it hard for an attendee of the Festival to narrow down their viewing choices to a somewhat orderly schedule because of all the great stuff you’re inevitably going to miss out on. While scanning the three waves of releases prior to the Fest, one of the movies that caught my eye was Gridlocked; not the Tupac movie but a brand new Action-Thriller from the mind of Allan Ungar, Canadian Filmmaker with one previous film under his belt, another action flick called Tapped Out (2014). To be honest, I hadn’t seen any of Mr. Unger’s work previous to Gridlocked. What caught my eye was the cast. The film stars Dominic Purcell, Vinnie Jones, Stephen Lang, Danny Glover and former WWE Diva Trish Stratus as the principal good guys and bad guys and I must admit it was the name Trish Stratus that got me to watch this film. Since leaving WWE, Trish has gone on to try her hand at film acting, of which I had also seen none of, so I figured if someone at Fantastic Fest thought enough to program it I should probably check it out.
What begins as a by-the-numbers Action Thriller turns out to be a by-the-numbers Action Thriller that is surprisingly watchable despite its reliance on every action movie trope you can think of. The story begins with Brodie Walker (Cody Hackman), an up-and-coming actor who lives his life like Justin Bieber; he gets drunk all the time, beats up paparazzi, does drugs and basically has no accountability for his actions. This time, however, the paparazzi member is very angry at being assaulted and is putting Brodie’s new film project in jeopardy. His agent and legal team have decided he must be held to some level of responsibility or his career is over so they arrange for him to hang out with a member of the police force as a sort of wake up call in order to improve his image.
Enter Dave Hendrix (Dominic Purcell), a member of the Strategic Response Team assigned to regular police work following an ‘incident’ and he’s not too happy about his assignment. Normally an all-business, taciturn individual, he is quickly put to the test by the free-wheeling Brodie so much of the first third of the film is the ‘mismatched partners’ bit where we see the two different personalities clash, including the old ‘”I’ll shoot him,” “Go ahead” gag. They drop in to visit the SRT where Dave was previously assigned and hopes to be returned to and meet his fellow team mates Scott (Steve Byers), Jason (James A. Woods) and Gina (Trish Stratus) as well as desk Sergeant Sully (Danny Glover), who cannot resist (nor can the filmmakers) reminding us that he’s “getting too old for this shit.” Of course there are the obligatory ‘meeting the team’ parts to round out the first third of the film as well as the ‘meeting the bad guys with a mysterious purpose to be revealed later so they can show us they’re properly bad’ segment of the first third, with Stephen Lang and Vinnie Jones portraying the villains of the piece.
Once the set-up is established, the bad guys, in a bold stroke, infiltrate the SRT base where Hendrix and his Hollywood charge are visiting and set off an EMP, as well as a massive gunfight. Once Dave and his team realize that something is happening, they get to solving it with aplomb. Following the set-up 1/3, the last 2/3 of the film degenerate wonderfully into shooting, shooting and more shooting as Dave and his team must hold out as the very well-prepared bad guys use the SRT’s own tactics against them in an effort to breach the building. Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing the Rainbow 6 Siege Beta a lot recently but that’s what the last half of the film felt like to me and that’s a pretty high complement. They used many of the same devices and weapons, breached in formation, communicated in much the same way and fired many, many, many rounds at each other. Stephen Lang, head bad guy, at one point hears gunfire over the security monitors and asks Vinnie Jones, “What’s the problem?” Vinnie’s appropriate response is “Carnage,” because there is nothing but carnage for the entire rest of the movie. People shooting through other people’s cheeks, ripping at eyes, there’s a great shanking in the server room; I don’t think I’ve been as impressed with the gore in an action film since Joe Lynch’s Everly (2014) or maybe even as far back as Rambo (2008) but the people behind Gridlocked really aimed to please as far as the violence was concerned. They even add a suspected mole to the SRT team to keep the audience off balance as to what’s really going on as well as keeping Hendrix’s team’s chances minimal at best. However, locked in a Tactical Response HQ chock-full of weapons may not be the worst place to be on the defensive as the bad guys soon find out. What follows is, of course, Carnage.
Gridlocked isn’t the best action movie you’ll ever see but it hit me the same as Lockout (2012) in that I enjoyed it far more than I thought I was going to after the first half an hour of the film. Sure it feels like every other shoot-‘em-up you’ve ever seen but once it stops setting up the story and moves into the ‘blast everything in sight’ phase it more than makes up for its reliance on what you’d expect. The acting is better than average though there is some cringe-worthy dialog and it is amusing to see Dominic Purcell playing the Vinne Jones role especially with Vinnie Jones already in the movie, albeit playing a menacing bad guy but it works well enough. Trish Stratus does herself credit in the role she was asked to play but I was disappointed she didn’t use her Stratusfaction finisher on anyone and I must admit she looks as good as ever. No word yet on an impending release date but I would say it’s worth checking out when it gets to your local Cineplex and it’s a Must when it arrives on DVD/Blu Ray/Netflix just so you can experience the Carnage for yourself.