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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » New Jersey Drive
New Jersey Drive
Universal // R // February 1, 2005
List Price: $12.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Lecter | posted February 20, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
You might not hear this very often, but I am quite proud to say I live in New Jersey. I can't say the same, however, about our pollution, obsession with malls, and horrific traffic. And you'd probably be hard pressed to find anyone proud of the fact that we have, in Newark, the "car theft capital of the nation." It is this very notion, nonetheless, that provides the impetus behind Writer/Director Nick Gomez's film New Jersey Drive.

In a city where hundreds of cars are stolen everyday - sometimes just for a joyride - can the people on the streets and the men sworn to protect the city coexist? While that's certainly an interesting question, Gomez never really gets around to answering it in his film. Instead, the film fails to find one true thread to stick through as it weaves its way through the lives of its characters. We have the cops versus the young, black males. We have the young, black males versus other young, black males. And we even have the young, black males versus their families. Gomez simply loses his way with too many threads that never quite come together. It's not even resolution that I needed at the conclusion of New Jersey Drive. It's just that I wanted it to say something to me, and the only thing it really seemed to say was "don't steal cars if you're a young, black male from Newark because it will only get you killed." I could get that from the evening news.

That's not to say that Gomez's film doesn't have its merits. His characters are all interesting in their own way, even if they are all variations of the same stereotype. Gabriel Casseus and Sharron Corley are charismatic and fresh in their roles as Midget and Jason Petty. Their interaction is believable as is the progression of their relationship throughout the film. Adam Kimmel's innovative cinematography and Gomez's direction during the car chases are also a joy to watch. We get some nice, unexpected angles and a lot less MTV-style quick cutting than I had anticipated. While he intended it or not, the heart of Gomez's film is all of the car stealing, and this is precisely the part of the film that he gets right.

New Jersey Drive, however, just did not have enough good elements to win me over. At times it looked as though the film might go in the right direction, but more often than not it seemed to be trying too hard to be like Boyz n the Hood or Menace II Society. Gomez tries valiantly to give us some type of message, but the only message I managed to cull from his film is to make sure I take mass-transit next time I go into Newark.

The DVD

Video:
New Jersey Drive is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that varies in quality from time to time. There are moments in the film when this transfer looks great. Colors are spot-on, blacks are deep and true, and detail is wonderful. There are other times during the film, however, that this transfer looks fairly inadequate. There is a bit of edge enhancement throughout, but more troubling are the scratches and dirt that occasionally appear. In darker scenes, detail sometimes becomes problematic and a fair amount of grain becomes visible. The layer change is, unfortunately, also noticeable about three-quarters of the way through the film. On the whole, though, this visual presentation certainly has more good qualities than bad, and is probably the best the film has ever looked.

Sound:
The audio on this disc is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format that fails to take full advantage of its surround capabilities. With a hip-hop intensive soundtrack that serves as the cornerstone for much of the film, this track is sorely lacking in a powerful LFE output. While the low end does become apparent at times, it should definitely have been made a priority for a film of this nature. For a film with several car chases and high-speed pursuits, the surround channels are surprisingly quiet as well. The few instances when they do come alive provide some nice support to the soundtrack and a couple well-timed surround effects. Dialogue is mostly clear and crisp throughout, but there are times when it becomes overwhelmed by the soundtrack, which resides predominantly in the front channels. The narration of the film is clearly a bit quieter than the rest of the film's dialogue. Nevertheless, this track gets the job done, but fails to make any real impression.

Extras:
The only extra features included on this disc are approximately 25 minutes of deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer. The excised scenes are in pretty beat up and certainly are not of the same quality as the rest of the film. Most are wholly new scenes (not extensions), and while they are an interesting item to have on this disc, it would have been nice to have the option of watching each one individually rather than as one continuous play.

Final Thoughts:
This is actually the second time that New Jersey Drive has made it to DVD, and while I have not seen the original disc, I'd wager to say that this one is an improvement, in every way, over that bare-bones release. The audio-visual presentations are adequate, and the inclusion of nearly a half-hour of deleted scenes makes this a fine disc. The film itself, however, is just not quite good enough to warrant anything more than a rental.

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