Embracing how your past actions have influenced your personality and the path your life has taken, and unconditionally allowing those experiences to help guide your future, can be both a humbling and challenging occurrence. But the characters, as well as the cast and crew, of the new action film ‘Gridlocked’ have enthrallingly welcomed the equally liberating and daunting task of allowing their passions and efforts influence the way they approach and handle life’s physical and emotional obstacles and achievements.
To celebrate that noteworthy approach to fully embracing whatever life presents to you, ‘Gridlocked’ had its Canadian premiere at the Scotiabank Theatre on Tuesday, October 20 during the 10th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF). To celebrate the action movie being shown to a sold-out crowd during its premiere in the city, where it was filmed, Ungar, along with several members of the cast and crew, including actor Cody Hackman, actress Trish Stratus, co-writer Rob Robol, co-editor Michael Lane and stunt coordinator Neil Davison, generously participated in a post-screening Q&A.
‘Gridlocked’ follows the tough, no-nonsense David Hendrix (Dominic Purcell), a New York SWAT leader who’s been forced to perform drug busts and other mundane, routine police duties around the city until his doctor deems he’s healthy enough to reunite with his team. His professional luck takes another turn for the worst when as part of a plea agreement, a hard-partying former child star, Brody Walker (Hackman), who was arrested for assaulting a cameraman, is ordered to shadow the officer.
After Brody attempts to connect with him, David reluctantly agrees to take the actor to meet his SWAT team, including Gina (Stratus), Steve Byers (Scott Calloway) and Jason (James A. Woods), at their police training facility in Upstate New York. But the group’s skills and bonds are quickly tested when a team of mercenaries, which is led by Korver (Stephen Lang) and Ryker (Vinnie Jones), targets the facility. The mercenaries take no qualms in hurting David and his team, which also includes Sully (Danny Glover), the facility’s security guard who’s on duty, in order to get what they want. Both sides relentlessly do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their team members as they take down the opposing side by whatever means necessary.
Ungar kicked off the ‘Gridlocked’ TADFF post-screening Q&A by revealing that the genesis of the action movie began when “Rob and I started talking about doing something that was a straight-up, tongue-in-check throwback to the ’80s and ’90s. We had just watched (the action thriller) ‘The Hard Way,’ which is this awesome film from the ’90s with Michael J. Fox and James Wood. So Rob and I thought it would be cool to do something in this vein.” While the two writers wanted to pay homage to action-driven films like ‘The Hard Way,’ due to their budgetary restraints, they had to shoot ‘Gridlocked’ in one location.
The filmmaker then delved into the experience of reuniting with Hackman on ‘Gridlocked,’ as they previously collaborated on Ungar’s feature film writing, directorial and editing debut, last year’s sports action drama, ‘Tapped Out.’ The helmer noted how they had a really fun time making on his first feature together, but they knew that “we had to up the ante and do something bigger, louder and more fun.” He laughed as he then divulged, “So I said, ‘The character’s pretty much modeled after you-Brody, Cody.’ When I asked him if he wanted the role, he said, ‘F*ck yeah!'”
As a follow-up question on his portrayal of Brody in ‘Gridlocked,’ Hackman was asked what the process of playing such a character who’s initially so narcissistic. The actor laughed he said, “We had a lot of fun. Playing with Dom was awesome.” Hackman added that he was just trying to annoy his main co-star the entire time they were on the Tronto set. He laughed again when he divulged, “He didn’t want to talk to me during our lunch breaks. But we’re cool now. It was also really cool working with (Purcell) and the rest of the these guys, like Stephen and Danny.”
Stratus then jumped into the conversation by explaining that she became involved in playing Gina because the film’s production manager, Bruno Marino, and Ungar took a chance on her. The director then added that casting the former WWE wrestler was a very endearing process. “Trish really loved the script, and came to us at a time when she wanted to jump back into movies,” the helmer explained.
“Obviously, there are a lot of great female entertainers out there, like Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey, who are getting into movies,” Ungar further noted. “I know that Trish has a strong passion, and gave the role everything. She came in on weekends, just like Dom, to rehearse.”
While Ungar then admitted that he and Marino weren’t initially sure about casting a former wrestling who was trying to transition into acting. “But we were thrilled that we did. She was so much fun to work with,” the filmmaker added.
Lane was then asked about his editing process, as a lot of the movements in the fight sequences are clearly visible in the final cut of ‘Gridlocked.’ Since there was so much footage to work with, he called the editing process “deceptively complicated. There are five or six characters in every scene. There were also two, and sometimes three, cameras that were used. So there was a lot to keep track of as you tried to figure out what you should be looking at, in order to get the right emotional reaction.”
The editor also explained how Ungar “was clear from the very beginning about how he wanted the action to be geographically understandable. He doesn’t like how in current action movies, everything becomes a blur of movement, and you can’t figure anything out.”
Lane then revealed that his co-editor “actually cut a lot of the action sequences himself, because he knew how he wanted to put all of the pieces together. We would then meet up and go over everything together.” The editor also noted how Ungar wanted the actors to appear as though they were as properly trained as possible.
The filmmaker then jumped back into the conversation and divulged that they brought in “members from the Joint Task Force, who ran a boot camp for all the actors, within what our budget would allow. I know that and Trish definitely went overboard, and spent their weekends training as much as possible.”
Ungar added that the cast was “running drills with our stunt coordinator, Neil…We wanted to make (the stunts) as authentic as possible.” The director laughed as he added, “Obviously, there were some liberties that we had to make, since we were making a movie, but he wouldn’t let me take too many.”
The helmer then called Davison down from the audience to join the rest of the crew and cast on the stage to talk about the action movie’s stunt work and training. “It was a pleasure to work with the cast,” the stunt coordinator noted once he arrived on stage to applause from the audience. He also explained the actors were eager to perform their own stunts, and they “did a fair amount of training.”
As part of the cast’s training, the real members from the Joint Task Force visited ‘Gridlocked’s set. “But we can’t go into too much detail about what they do…But we got a glimpse into the movements that they do, and how hard they train,” Davison added.
Ungar was then questioned about how he convinced Glover to repeat an incarnation of one of his most famous movie quotes from the ‘Lethal Weapon’ franchise, in which he states he’s “getting too old for this sh*t.” The filmmaker received laughter from the audience when he admitted, “It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. He was so resistant.”
The director added that he thinks that when the Daytime Emmy Award-nominated actor read the script for ‘Gridlocked,’ “he knew there was a twinkle of ‘Lethal Weapon’ in it. But I think he just chose to ignore it until the day came” when they were scheduled to shoot the scene with the quote from the classic buddy cop action film. “We set up the blocking for the scene, and he just wouldn’t even acknowledge (the quote). He just skipped the line.”
Ungar added that he then approached “Trish and Dom and asked them what was going on. They said, ‘Yeah, he’s not saying that.’ I said, ‘I have to at least try.'” The helmer admitted that it is an overused quote that everyone knows. “I guess it gets tiresome after awhile. So everyone tried to discourage me from trying to talk him into saying it. But I said, ‘I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least try.'”
The filmmaker then revealed that he went into Glover’s trailer and said, “‘Hey Danny, I want to talk about the line. Can we do it?’ He said, ‘No, I’m not doing it.’ I asked if I could give him my explanation of why I wanted him to say it. He said, ‘You can give me all the explanations you want, but I’m still not saying it.'”
Ungar then admitted to his actor that he and ‘Lethal Weapon’s director, Richard Donner, “are the reason why I’m making movies. This movie is paying tribute to what you guys have done. You guys have inspired me. I understand that you might be worried that it will be a little bit hokey, but I promise you the audience will clap.”
But Glover told his ‘Gridlocked’ helmer that Chris Rock tried to get him to say the line, and he didn’t even say it for the comedian. “We talked for a few minutes, and he also said, ‘You’ve got heart, and I appreciate it,'” Ungar said. “So I went back, and Dom, who doesn’t smile very much, asked, ‘Is he going to do it?’ I said no.”
Ungar then revealed that “as we were then getting ready to shoot, Danny’s assistant called me and said he wanted to talk to me.” The director went back into the actor’s trailer, and Glover “looked like he hadn’t moved in those 15 minutes. He said, ‘I have something for you.’ I asked if he was going to fill me in, and he said no, and to just roll the camera. So I said, ‘We’re shooting two cameras on this,’ and he said it on the third take.”
The filmmaker also divulged that after Glover said his famous quote, “Dom even broke character, which he never does. He looked into the camera and said, ‘Oh my God!'” The audience laughed as the director then said that everyone gave Glover a hug after the scene, and “I almost broke down crying, because I was going back to my childhood.”
Check out Shockya’s exclusive photos from the ‘Gridlocked’ TADFF post-screening Q&A below.
Written by: Karen Benardello