Streets of Legend aka Quattro Noza (2003)

(On DVD, May 2011) It would be easy to be overly critical of this film.  The home-video graininess of the picture is matched by the script’s lack of focus, inconclusive ending and quasi-pretentious cinematography.  A hybrid between documentary and micro-budget romantic drama set alongside the Los Angeles street-racing scene, Streets of Legend often feels like a vanity project by someone who really, really wants to be taken seriously as an artist.  The result will be laughable to anyone looking for a straight-up action film.  On the other hand, there are a few things worth taking seriously here.  First would be the nature of the street-racing scenes, reportedly shot documentary-style on the streets of LA.  They would work better without the ridiculous amount of post-processing taking away from the visceral nature of the footage (some of the shots feel genuinely dangerous, but are too blurred to make an impact), but the movie shows some invention in how to shoot a racing scene with what I’m presuming was a minuscule budget.  There’s also a lot to like about the film’s characters, where they come from and where they almost go: as Street of Legends shows a car full of teenage girls bantering mindlessly while on their way to a street racing event, it’s not hard to realize that there’s a reality-based layer to the film that we haven’t seen in glossier pictures such as the Fast and the Furious series.  From time to time, the loose unscripted nature of the film’s young protagonist is almost endearing –which makes it even more frustrating when the film ends on a lazy note, barely tying up its loose ends.  Still, the end result is halfway between a documentary, a drama and an action picture without much cohesive material in-between.  The scant DVD supplementary material hints at a very unusual making-of process, but we barely get any of that on the disc.  A further alert: The film’s picture seems to have been stretched from a 4:3 aspect ratio to 1.85:1… which really doesn’t help in making the picture look any prettier.  While there isn’t much to Streets of Legend to satisfy conventional expectations, there quite a bit of unrealized potential underneath the lousy images.  It’s a shame that it wasn’t better-executed.

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