This is the next-to-last movie made by rap star Shakur, whose troubled, violent life came to an abrupt, violent end last year when, at 25, he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. (Another film, Gang Related, will be released in the fall.) In Gridlock' d, Shakur—who was a direct, unaffected actor—is one third of a Detroit trio that plays a pretentious blend of rap, jazz and beat poetry. (They're not supposed to be awful. But they are.) The other members are his buddy Roth (doing one of his snivelly numbers) and Thandie Newton, who at the movie's start slips into a drug-induced coma. Shakur and Roth, shaken by Newton's overdose, try to quit drugs cold turkey. More or less. While futilely searching for a detox clinic that would accept them right away, Roth keeps dipping into a stash they scored off a murdered dealer.
This is Chicago Hope star Vondie Curtis Hall's debut as screenwriter and director. (He also has a virtually wordless role as a drug lord who wants that stolen stash.) It's solid work, but with the drugs, the scuzzy bonhomie and the Roth, it all feels very Quentin Tarantino. The freshest thing here is Newton. Seen largely in flashbacks, she is sleek and tartly funny. (R)