Fantastic Fest 2015 Interview: GRIDLOCKED

By Mark Saldana

The day after enjoying the witty comedy and intense, balls-to-the-wall action of Gridlocked, I sat down with writer/director Allan Ungar, writer Rob Robol, and actor Cody Hackman for an awesome and fun interview.  The movie Gridlocked definitely appeals to my nostalgia for fun and action packed movies from the 80s and 90s, which was when I first officially started watching R-rated fare.  I most definitely had a great time watching the film and because of this, I was especially stoked for the interview.

Mark: (To Allan Ungar and Rob Robol) Please talk about what inspired you to make this film.

Allan Ungar: We had just seen The Hard Way (1991 John Badham film starring Michael J. Fox & James Woods) for the first time in like, years, and we said, ‘We gotta do a throwback’. The first movie I made was a throwback in its own way.  It (Tapped Out) was a tribute to The Karate Kid, but I wanted something more commercial, and with more genre appeal.  We wanted to amalgamate our two favorite genre types which are the Die Hards, The Siege, a mercenary-esque sort of action film coupled with the buddy-cop movie.  That way there’s a sort of misdirection.  It starts out as a buddy-cop movie and turns into a completely different scenario.

Mark: Besides The Hard Way, the Die Hards, obviously the Lethal Weapons, what other films influenced Gridlocked?

Allan: Assault on Precinct 13

Rob: Renegades with Kiefer Sutherland

Allan: It is very much targeted to that era–80s up until the mid 90s. I miss that a lot.  All the studio movies now are very CGI and technical heavy.  We wanted something to go as a throwback that was all practical.

Mark: For this type of movie, it must have been a dream-come-true signing actors like Stephen Lang and Danny Glover.  How did you manage to sign on these talented actors?

Allan: I couldn’t think of a better cast. I think they’re all perfect. It was originally Cuba Gooding, Jr. (in the lead role), and Dom (Purcell) replaced him.  Thank God! Because I think Dom is born to play this role. Stephen Lang came shortly afterwards and once you have one actor on, it’s much easier to bring the rest in.  Danny (Glover) was the easiest one, funny enough.  He read the material and responded to it, and he saw that twinkle of Lethal Weapon and it warmed his heart a little bit.  Trish (Stratus) was presented to us, and we were looking at someone else.  I wasn’t sure because she was more of a wrestler and I wanted to make sure she could get the other stuff down and she nailed it! She was willing to do anything.

Cody Hackman: Including punching me in the face three times for real. (He smiles.)

Mark: Considering that you had a modest budget, your action sequences look great. Were there any scenes originally planned that were too ambitious for your budget?

Allan: The funny thing is we really did shoot most of what we wanted to shoot. There were sequences that were cut out for time. We wanted to give Trish another moment, another sequence, but that would have been it.

Mark: What kind of difficulties did you face balancing the comedy with the intensity of the action and violence?

Allan: I’m a funny guy, but I never set out to make funny movies.  I’m an action guy.  We wanted the action to be very visceral, very intense, but we wanted the comedy, when it counts, to be very funny. When you look at films like the Lethal Weapons, like Lethal Weapon 2, the comedy is very funny, but it gets intense and you forget it’s a comedy. Then you’re laughing when the two are cracking jokes.

Cody: That was the feel last night (at the premiere screening) which was awesome.  An hour in, people are still laughing, but then later on people are getting shot.

Mark: What is Dominick Purcell really like?  I loved his performance in the film, but I must say he looks quite intimidating. I’m not sure if I would like to run into him in a dark alley.

Allan: Dom’s been in this business a long time and he’s been burned quite a few times.  Upon first impression, he’s very intimidating because he’s this imposing, very quiet guy who just keeps to himself.  But when he’s really engaged in something, when he trusts you and allows himself to be vulnerable, he opens up and shines. He’s a very funny, very funny guy.  He’s a very smart guy, very self-aware.  He just constantly wants to push the envelope.

Mark: (To Cody) What were some of the Hollywood inspirations for your character?  Did you have any particular actors in mind?

Cody: I think what sparked me a little was being a young guy when I moved to L.A. six months ago and seeing what the industry does to young people.  There’s lots of problems, They aren’t bad people, but when someone’s earning a couple million dollars and they’re 18, how do you not expect them to drive their Ferraris up and down the freeway going 200 miles per hour. That’s what inspired me for the Brody character–to make him sort of spoiled, but human and misunderstood.

 

That is definitely part of the appeal of this movie. The movie has mostly well written and executed comedy, and the action is certainly top notch and realistic. The characters have a genuine quality to them and that is not only thanks to the writing and direction, but also because of the talented cast.  I highly recommend that fans of action/comedy films keep an eye out for Gridlocked.  It is a fun film not to miss.

 

 

Actors Stephen Lang & Cody Hackman at Fantastic Fest

Actors Stephen Lang & Cody Hackman at Fantastic Fest

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