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Streets of Legend

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // January 24, 2006
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Matthew Ratzloff | posted February 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Streets of Legend, written and directed by Joey Curtis, is a movie obsessed with its own street cred. Nearly everything, from the street races to the fights to the locations, is real, in that it was staged but there were no stunt doubles. Other directors might have taken some of this material—say, the numerous shots of real teenagers going 140 miles per hour while weaving wildly in and out of real highway traffic—and made a documentary out of it. Curtis decided to overlay a tedious and predictable love story instead.

In the film, Brihanna Hernandez stars as Noza, a teenage girl who apparently has no drive or ambition to do anything particularly important in life. Her world, such as it is, revolves around her boyfriend Chato (Victor Larios), a chauvinist thug who smokes too much pot and has had previous run-ins with the law. When Chato is caught by his probation officer trying to submit a fake urine sample for his drug test, he's sent to a minimum-security prison. Sure enough, Noza finds out that Chato was cheating on her with her best friend, and soon after meets Derek (Robert Beaumont), a street racer with a heart of gold. You might think Derek is determined to be a street racing legend, but he's not—or if he is, he exhibits about the same level of passion for that as I might have for remembering to pick up toothpaste the next time I go to the grocery store. Perhaps attracted to each other's mutual dullness, Derek and Noza start dating, and once Chato finds out, hilarity ensues.

Just kidding. Hilarity does not ensue anywhere near this film. To say that the story is tedious is an understatement. As it mindlessly saunters towards its unsatisfying conclusion, Streets of Legend forces the viewer to endure endless bad dialogue from driftwood characters that have no business being on film in the first place. And in an effort to destroy the pacing altogether, every now and then street racing scenes are inserted that have nothing whatsoever to do with the main plot, but (as far as I can tell) simply exist to show off the camera work.

Streets of Legend did win the Sundance award for best dramatic cinematography, so you might understandably think that it's redeemable in some way, in spite of the story. But try as I might, I genuinely cannot fathom why it received the recognition. For one thing, either to save money or to give it a more authentic feel, the movie was filmed entirely with cheap consumer digital cameras, and, for the most part, looks like it. For another, the digital effects get in the way of the (already thin) story.

Curtis's favorite crutch is the delayed exposure, which comprises every racing scene in its entirety. I honestly thought as I watched the first race smear around in a slow acid haze that the drivers were all supposed to be on drugs. Besides being pointless, an effect like that only serves to pull the viewer out of the story. It's as if the director is elbowing you in the side and saying, "Eh? Eh? Isn't this cool?" Worse, it destroys any sense of speed (Ritalin-deprived editing doesn't help).

Perhaps the most glaring problem is that the film just doesn't know where its focus should be. Is it a romance movie? Drama? Action? More than one is fine, but Streets of Legend fails on all counts. Ironically, I think it would have been stronger if the street racing were stripped altogether, to make more time for fleshing out the characters. As it is, it just seems like a big-budget student film.


As I said earlier, the movie was shot on consumer digital cameras, so it looks like a really well-done home movie, or a low-budget independent film. The picture isn't very sharp, and there's a little blurring when there's a lot of motion (unrelated to any of the effects used). Also, since most of the movie takes place at night, there's a lot of grain.


There are options for both 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo and 5.1 surround, as well as English and Spanish subtitles. The surround is decent and makes use of the rear channels mostly when cars zoom past, although with those high-pitched engines the subwoofer doesn't get much work to do. The soundtrack consists of rap and techno.


There is a set of four extras on the disc, plus trailers. They're each only a few minutes long (eight or nine minutes total) and consist of unnarrated behind-the-scenes footage, so they don't even really qualify as featurettes. "Minidocumentary: Racing Extra" (0:03) reveals that it the movie was shot over a course of six years, which is not necessarily something I would let slip. "The Crash" (0:02) is about a guy in a Mustang wedging his car next to a building and spoiling the fun for everyone when the cops show up. "Street Fights" (0:01) consists of scenes of, yeah, the street fights. The guys are pretty clearly trying not to hurt each other, which also comes through in the movie. "The Blowout at 140mph" (0:02) is the last one, when a car hits a pothole and comes to a mostly safe stop (sorry, no dramatic deaths).

Six trailers are also included: Creep, a zombie picture with Franka Potente; Heebe Jeebies, a slasher that clearly shows Hollywood is running out of old-timey phrases about being scared (Jeepers Creepers?); The Mangler Reborn, a horror flick; Green River Killer, a drama or thriller or something; Waiting, a comedy with Ryan Reynolds; and Madea's Family Reunion, another comedy.


With underdeveloped characters, an aimless plot, and randomly-inserted street races that interrupt the story instead of advancing it, Streets of Legend is all style, no substance. Steer clear of this wreck. Skip it.
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