Streets of Legend review by Tom Blain

I always wondered why Fox Networks always showed so many damned high speed chases on TV. On top of that, I always wondered why every high speed chase came from L.A. While Streets of Legend may not be the complete answer to my questions, it does seem to lend some creedence to the theory that people in L.A. care a lot about the speed of their cars. If not everyone in Lala-land, at least a considerable underground section of the population drives something that could suck the paint off my 2001 Jetta (thats the Wolfsburg edition ...by the way...). Streets of Legend, in its best moments, is a swift, no punches pulled invitation this league of law-breaking street racers. In its worst moments, its like your buddy trying to hand-i-cam you doing something stupid in your dad's Licoln Mark VIII.

Derek (Robert Beaumont) spends his days painting with his father and his nights cruising with his friends. Their idea of cruising is driving down a free way at breakneck speeds in individual cars. Each car has been modified at least five times beyond the bluebook value. They communicate with walkie-talkies and shout out "5-0" when someone's radar detector flips out. Every once in a while they find an underground drag race going on some city back street. This is not only Derek's hobby but his passion as well. Noza (Brihana Hernandez) is a young and beautiful Latina also living in L.A. Her deadbeat boyfriend Chato just got tossed in the can for cheating on his drug test. As if losing him to the law wasn't bad enough, her girlfriend tells her that she and Chato had a little thing going on the side.

To take her mind off things she goes out with her friends and winds up watching some organized illegal street racing. It's at this point where she falls for Derek. She digs the car. She digs the flavor-saver. She digs the spikey hair...she digs Derek. They plant the seeds of a budding relationship and everything is fine and sweet... until a hardened, angry Chato breaks out of jail wanting to get his girl and his life back.

For the most part, the love story takes a backseat to the cars (whoops did I say that?) and the underground culture of illegal street racing in L.A. Streets of Legend did a great job of pulling you into this world. All the little people and side characters felt legitimate and miles away from the bastardizing, Barbie/Ken-doll touch of the Hollywood makeup crew. In fact, that's probably because they are. According to the behind-the-scenes documentary, director Joey Curtis employeed actual street racers for his movie. He set up all or most of his stunts illegally on backroads, back alleys and freeways around Southern California. Heck the fights even look real, probably because the punches actually sound like punches (something that you just don't get in mainstream movies). Because of all this, Streets of Legend has an authenticity that Fast and the Furious could never achieve. Joey Curtis, I salute you.

On the downside, the movie is so stylized that it makes following the story and appreciating the street scenes difficult. Good racing scenes in Streets of Legend are often rendered unwatchable due to either low camera speeds, choppy camera work, or intentional camera tricks (cross-cutting, skipping frames). I found myself wondering if this was a concious decision or if it was just the affect of shooting a low-budget movie mostly at night with not-so-state-of-the-art digital equipment. I'm guessing it was all intentional since most of the daylight shots (cars or no cars) are also over-directed and over-edited. I can understand being over-zealous about shooting a dream movie, but it seems as if a little restraint in the editing room would have helped out a bit.

On the outside, Joey Curtis' Streets of Legend appears to be a b-movie redux of the Vin Diesel catapult Fast and the Furious. Save that judgement until the credits roll. SoL is definitely bold albeit flawed work that stands on its own. Curtis' vision of representing a mod-car counter-culture couldn't be more genuine. The no-name actors are superb, however, the editing and camera work make following the story and appreciating the action a daunt task. All things considered SoL is highly recommended for the street enthusiast.




5 out of 10 Jackasses
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