(director/writer: Nick Gomez; screenwriter: Michael Marriott; cinematographer: Adam Kimmel; editor: Tracy Granger; music: Wendy Blackstone; cast: Saul Stein ( Lt. Emilr Roscoe), Koran C. Thomas(Ronnie), Sharron Corley(Jason Petty), Koran C Thomas (Ronnie Q), Gabriel Casseus (Midget), Arthur Nascarella (Chop-shop owner), Andre Moore(Ritchie), Donald Adeosun Faison (Tiny Dime), Devin Eggleston(Jamal), Samantha Brown (Jackie Petty), Gwen McGee (Rene Petty), Heavy D (B-Kane), Paulie Schulze (Booking Sgt.), Roscoe Orman (Judge); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Bob Gosse/Larry Meistrich; MCA Universal Home Video; 1995)

Hard-hitting but glum slice-of-life street drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer Nick Gomez (“Laws of Gtavity”/”Ricochet”) bases the story on an expose of car thieves and corrupt cops in Newark penned by Michael Marriott. This hard-hitting but glum slice-of-life street drama is about black teens stealing cars in Newark and chased by mostly white police officers. The low-budget film features gritty atmospheric street settings at teen hangouts, loud police arrests and endless car chases, along with jarring black jargon street talk. The well-meaning pic is good in the action sequences but lacks insight into what’s in the hearts of the young criminals, leaving us at a loss to understand what’s to be taken away from such a dispiriting tale we can read about regularly in the newspapers.

By focusing on black teen-ager Jason Petty (Sharron Corley), living at home with his stable working-class family, the story tells of street culture in the Newark projects among black teens, police relations in the ‘hood,’ the workings of the criminal system and the aimless street life that leads the featured subject to carjacking and a stretch in prison that gives him a chance to reassess his wanton life.

Jason hangs out with his teen friends who steal cars for joy rides or sell them cheaply to venal chop-shop owners. During a police sting, the cops do not follow procedure in shooting one car thief (Koran C Thomas) in an ambush while Jason flees. Though warned by his concerned mom (Gwen McGee) to stay away from the bad elements, Jason doesn’t listen and gravitates to the bad apple incorrigible carjacker Midget (Gabriel Casseus). Meanwhile corrupt Lt. Roscoe (Saul Stein) fears Jason will rat him out to the grand jury hearing evidence on the illegal police shooting at the sting operation and hounds the kid not to testify. and beats him instead of arresting him for stealing cars.

In the end, all we learn is that stealing cars is a dumb thing to do, and these car thieves might be kids but are still dangerous. The excuse given here for Jason is that he was just trying to make his mark in the world, which sounds as hollow as the picture.

New Jersey Drive (1995)