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STUDIO: Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 92 Minutes
• Four brief featurettes
"I just found this neat program that lets me add special effects to digital footage. May I use it with cars?"
Brihanna Hernandez, Robert Beaumont, Victor Larios. You haven’t heard of them because Streets of Legend is the only thing they’ve done.
In the fast-pace world of LA, what do kids do for fun? Go even faster of course! Streets of Legend is a documentary-style love triangle between Noza Florez (Hernandez), and her two posturing, hyper-masculine men: Derek "Quattro" Smith (Beaumont) and Chato (Larios). Noza breaks up with Chato, feels isolated, meets up with Quattro, and then tries to keep the prison-breaking Chato from ever meeting up with Quattro.
The cinematography (which one an award at Sundance) dodges between cinéma vérité and wigger-on-AfterEffects, mostly shot with handheld cameras to give it that gritty, life-as-prison look. It’s not a slick film, and shouldn’t really be compared to The Fast and the Furious, because the only ways they intersect are that they both feature cars and neither one is very good.
Try not to stand at the vanishing point.
I’m going to address the cinematography briefly, because the look of the film is so central to its degree of success for a viewer. This is an example of filmmakers artificially adding interest to a narrative by way of experimental shot composition and technique. The toolbox of photography is varied, from frame-duplication slow-mo to web-cam quality jitter, to smash cuts, fades to red, awkward angles, and more.
Taken individually, these methods are mostly successful (with the exception of the massively jittery sections, during which audio and video do not sync up,) but they do not contribute to making the film cohesive. There is too much focus on experimentation in vision, and not enough attention given to developing the narrative on the plot or dialogue levels.
The rest of the package is top quality for a small film like this. The audio fidelity is the bright and shining star, with a great Dolby 5.1 track packed with varied effects (not a lot of looping to be found, even in the car engine effects) and a soundtrack with some decent fuzz/noise electronica, plus licensed music.
The special features represent a minimal effort on the part of the disc authors. There are four very brief featurettes, only one of which has a clear definition. That’s the one about the street fights, which claims that all the fights captured on camera were real. I was worried they were imaginary, so it’s good to know. The other featurettes are throwaways, barely topping two minutes each.
In Flanders Fields, the lonely punks are waiting.
It’s hard to have sympathy for stupid people. Court shows piss me off because the plaintiff is always an idiot. I rarely get absorbed into romance stories because the loveless heart is deprived thanks to its owner’s ignorance. The lessons of Saint Paul go right over my head, all because I can’t shut up the internal voice that says to these people: "You guys brought it on yourselves."
That’s what cripples the narrative of Streets of Legend. Everyone we’re supposed to care about is an unqualified idiot. Sure, it’s unlikely any of the characters could score on the positive number line in the SAT, but it’s not the lack of book-smarts that hamstrings them. It’s the method by which they make choices, methods that rarely touch on the realms of reason. Flat characters are defined by action; well-rounded characters are defined by deliberation.
Not only are the main characters frustratingly stupid, but they’re also incredibly awkward. The primary character interaction, between Quattro and Noza, is as clumsy as a MySpace romance. It starts off as something parallel to sweet, but the writers felt the need to inject it with buckets of weak poetry and sentimental interior monologues. Not only is the audience blocked from caring about the individual characters; the spark of their interaction fails to generate any interest.
There are two redeeming factors, in my consideration: the deft pacing and the portrayal of Noza by Brihanna Hernandez. Hernandez, though saddled with the most foolish of all the roles, performs admirably. She is lively, thoughtful, and smooth at handling emotional transition. It’s a shame about the ham-fisted philosophy.
The editing, which is driven heavily by intercutting, brings a quick pace to the dull story. The filmmakers keep at least two plates spinning at any time, which allows them to jump back and forth to keep audience interest high.
That interest is going to wane pretty quickly after the opening credits, unless you’re in it for the cars. And if you are, then you’ve picked the wrong movie. The focus of the movie isn’t on the races, but rather on the uninteresting people in the driver’s and passenger’s seats. Maybe it should have been the other way around.
5.5 out of 10