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Road Dogz

review by Andres J.

 

 

Rated: R

Running Time: 95 minutes

Starring: Jacob Vargas, Greg Serano, Clifton Collins Jr.

Written and Directed by: Alfredo Ramos

 

Studio: Artisan

Retail Price: $14.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alfrdo Ramos and Actor Jacob Vargas, Theatrical Trailer, Behind-the-scenes Interviews, Director and cast Filmographies

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections

Released: March 26th, 2002

 

 

"Road Dogz" is the story of a group of friends put through a tragic chapter in their lives in a coming of age story with the streets of LA as its backdrop. It is quite refreshing to see the hard life of the Latino lower class portrayed here as that's rarely seen. There's some good writing and more than a few very good performances. These things come together so that despite the movie's flaws, chief among them the fact that there are few things to really set it apart from the crowd, it is still a tight film that is worth checking out.

There are three main characters in "Road Dogz." Danny, Alfonso, and Raymo are long time friends, each of them dealing with their own personal experiences. Danny, played by Jacob Vargas, is having trouble accepting his girlfriend's decision to leave town for college, while at the same time searching for a sorely needed job. Alfonso (Greg Serano) seems rather content, focusing his energy on having fun and chasing girls, but soon finds that his reckless, fun-loving lifestyle gotten him into trouble and must make a life altering decision with the future of himself and his girlfriend in mind. Clifton Collin Jr.'s character, Raymo, has turned to a drug dealing partnership with local ticking time bomb Big Joe (Lobo Sebastian) for the financial support so difficult to find in the neighborhood. At first it seems that Raymo's new "job" is the answer to his prayers, but he later finds himself in over his head and in serious danger.

There's a lot to like about "Road Dogz." The performances are truly special, as each of the characters deal with the coming changes in their lives in a very convincing way. The friendship between them comes off with a very authentic feel, as do their interactions with family members. These family interactions (particularly those of Danny) are the most satisfying scenes in the film, despite the emphasis on the boys' friendship. The struggles of Danny's father against his son and his inner demons make him one of the film's more interesting characters, yet one of the most memorable is Danny's grandfather. The old man gives very wise advise and seems as though he is and at the same time is not part of the town since his wisdom is at odds with the majority of the town's young residents' lifestyle. However, the characters' interactions with each other also satisfy, as do the results when they come into contact with other characters in the neighborhood. This neighborhood where the film takes place is quite compelling, and director Alfredo Ramos is to be commended for creating this small world. However, this small world is similar to the "hood" films many film goers are accustomed to. That's alright, but it's certainly not original. I have two other small complaints. One is the small things that don't have much to do with everything else. They just seem thrown in. One example is the zany, bicycle riding character who fancies himself a salesman. The character's place in the film, as well as his behavior (not to mention the camera's movement when he makes an entrance) seem suspiciously similar to those of Radio Raheem in "Do the Right Thing." Unlike the character in Spike Lee's masterpiece, though, he serves little purpose if any at all. My other little bone to pick is the complete absence of local law enforcement. The police are nowhere to be seen in this town where crime is a serious problem. Further, when the boys' lives are in serious danger, notifying the police is not even touched upon as a possible course of action. I suppose that it's possible that Ramos wrote it this way because he truly sees the cops as a non-issue, but that doesn't seem quite right. With these complaints out of the way though, I can still recommend "Road Dogz" as a rental since the inspired writing and performances rise above the lack of much originality to create an above average film that's worth checking out.

 

It's not "Fight Club" but it's still pretty good. The picture looks nice, though there are a few spots here and there. The overall clarity of the picture is, for lack of better words, good, not great. That's definitely a positive verdict though. You'll have no trouble admiring the streets of Los Angeles, and edge enhancement is not a problem. This one's easy on the eyes.

 

The front speakers as well as the subwoofer are given a decent amount of work to do. There's plenty of dialogue and some environmental sounds that come across clearly. Some more work for the back speakers would have been nice though. It's a common thing among DVDs, but once again it'd be nice to have more in the back. It's alright though, there is some background noise in there, but nothing comes from all sides. Perhaps the film doesn't call for it for the most part, but the final scene, for example, could have put them all to good use. Still a solid showing though.

 

First, we have the "behind the scenes" featurette where the actors and director share thoughts concerning their work on the film, the roots of the ideas, and, of course, compliment each other repeatedly. A quick, painless and rather fluffy featurette that, to its credit, does share some interesting stuff. Then, there's an audio commentary with writer/director Alfredo Ramos and actor Jacob Vargas. It's a pretty informative one. There's a good helping of the standard pointing out of each actor/actress, but Ramos does point out some in-jokes, share some tidbits, and seems to enjoy himself on the track. Filmographies and a trailer are also featured.

 

Artisan has delivered a tight little flick on a decent DVD. There's Audio Commentary, solid audio and video, and an anamorphic transfer. At the price, you could do worse. Though he has taken a bit of formula, it's easy to see that Alfredo Roamos's writing and directing skills are admirable, and if he continues to work in the future he could be one to watch. Give "Road Dogz" a look and you'll probably agree.