As with the video generation before it companies releasing DVDs straight to video has created a niche market for various stars. These stars have name recognition for some but perhaps not the majority of moviegoers. That’s a shame because many of them deserve better than they’re getting, some doing better work in small budget films than many major stars.
One such actor is Dominic Purcell. His first major break that I was aware of was as the main nemesis of Wesley Snipes in BLADE: TRINITY. A year later he became more recognizable as Lincoln Burrows in the now famous TV series PRISON BREAK. More recently he’s starred in the new CW series DC LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. But in between these items he’s starred in a number of low budget action films and done a great job in each. Why he’s not making a bigger splash is beyond me.
This week Purcell arrives in GRIDLOCKED. He plays David Hendrix, a SWAT team leader demoted to street cop and not pleased with that position. Worse yet he is now saddled with a temperamental bad boy young actor on probation after punching a member of the paparazzi. Brody Walker (Cody Hackman) is a stereotypical character here, the obnoxious brat styled young actor who had fame to fast and abuses it at every chance he can. As he tags along with Hendrix he wants to know more about when he can shoot a gun rather than take something useful back from their time spent together.
Hendrix is no piece of cake either. Resentful of being stuck with Walker he does everything he can to ignore him. That is until one night when Walker shows up at Hendrix’ apartment, six pack in hand and tries to call a truce. Hendrix breaks down a bit and takes him to the training facility for SWAT to show him what their real world is like.
Unfortunately they’ve picked a bad night to do so. While Hendrix and his old squad are in the midst of an exercise, their own Hogan’s Alley test area, a team of mercenaries takes out the power and ignites an EMP cutting off any and all access to phones. As a gun battle follows the old guard at the facility Sully (Danny Glover) is shot and reveals to Hendrix what this group might be after. As the two teams go head to head, skirmish after skirmish the leader of the group is revealed, someone who has bad blood with Hendrix. Just who will survive this night remains to be seen.
Where the plotline of the spoiled and incompetent movie star partnered with a tough as nails cop has been done before the best thing about it here is that it’s used to put the ball in motion but isn’t the centerpiece of the film. That makes it work so much better than expected. Instead the writers and director have chosen to make the film about the assault on the training facility filled with enough backstory to make it believable and involving.
Purcell’s character fits his appearance and skills as an actor. He’s an imposing figure to look at with a tough as nails attitude that oozes from every pore in each scene he’s in. And yet there are moments when with just a subtle adjustment of body language or quick smile you can see there is more to Hendrix than meets the eye. That’s the sign of a good actor.
Perhaps the weakest character here is Brody. Hackman doesn’t have the chops yet to pull off this character even though he gives it a decent try. As written the character is far too clichéd and it would take someone with more skill to pull this off. Even Michael J. Fox in THE HARD WAY (1991) wasn’t able to quite achieve it. When I read that Hackman was a five time karate champion before going into film I wondered why those skills were never used here. It might have made for a more interesting character.
The movie offers some great fight sequences, some over the top gun battles and a plot that may have a few holes in it but not enough to make it unenjoyable. The rest of the cast does a great job in their roles and for being a film on the low budget end every penny shows on the screen. I’ve seen bigger budget films in the past year with more major special effects that haven’t compared to this one. So if you’re in the mood for a solid action film that will keep you involved from start to finish then give this one a shot. And keep in mind that Dominic Purcell is far better than the roles he’s been getting.
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