Asphalt Wars
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Cameron Murray (22nd August 2006).
The Film

I want to start this review by saying I like movies, I like the intentions behind them and the want to tell a story. When I write my reviews I don't set out to ridicule a persons labor of love, occasionally due to conflicts of opinion I will point out things that I thought could be better or would add to a movie's overall feeling and impact. It is with this attitude that I set out to review Asphalt Wars, a movie by its very cover claims to be 'in the tradition of The Fast and the Furious', I enjoyed that movie, so with eager anticipation I placed the DVD in my DVD player, pushed the close tray button and then pressed 'play'. I sat back champing at the bit waiting for the story of Reno (Gilbert Chavarria) an auto shop worker that longs to make it in the racing leagues. He endeavours to build up money to make it to these racing leagues by winning drag races, which are mostly governed by the gangs. This was the story that I waited to unfurl. The filmmakers even decided to spice it up by having Reno's love interest Dina (Calvi Pabon) be a gang member's sister. To say I was excited was an understatement but in the interest of non-prejudice journalism I calmed myself and proceeded with my task at hand.
When they say you can't judge a book by its cover, I think in this modern age that we can extend this to DVDs, the cover for this particular DVD gives the impression of speed, intense drag races, intense story and an unpredictable script that leaves you hanging on to the edge of your seat, pushing the imaginary brake pedal that you find yourself doing in your friends car when you feel they're traveling too fast. The reality of the script is that I've seen porn with better, less predictable story lines. The dialogue is dull and lifeless, and you can sense that the writer intended to be deep and meaningful, it may have read that way on paper but sadly on the small screen they were shallow and tired.
Stylistically it is uncreative; this is not a high budget production, but speeding up the footage is not a good substitute for actually fast cars. This is especially true when there are clear points of reference in a shot where you can see the actors shaking as if they have Parkinson's and then cutting to shots where they no longer have this affliction. It breaks you out of any suspension of disbelief that you may have worked up for yourself (this movie in no way helps you with this most necessary aspect of film viewing). Another aspect of this film that destroys the suspension of disbelief is when they cut between a shot at day to one that was clearly shot at night. I must admit there are a few couple of well composed shots that given the quality of the rest of the film you have to think that they are closer to flukes than genuine skill.
The only redeeming quality of this film is the acting, which dosen't deserve a huge amount of praise given what I have said before. The stand out performance was by Calvi Pabon who had some truly terrible lines, but delivered them with enough passion and conviction that you felt her character could have meant it. Gilbert Chavarria didn't do too badly for himself either but given that the actors seemingly didn't have too much to work with I can only say that it was a performance that would pass for a drama school graduate. The supporting cast gets a thumbs down as far as dramatic presence goes they did their job but you forgot them as soon as they went off screen, given the quality of this movie that may not be such a bad thing as far as their careers go.
So as I dejectedly pushed the open tray button foregoing the stop button in the hope that the disc had not sullied my DVD player, and then I started to think of ways that I could truly begin to convey my disappointment of this movie. This movie was bad, I can't actually find many redeeming features for it. I can't in any good conscience recommend that a person buys this movie given that for the price of purchasing this DVD you could remake the movie and most probably do a better job of it.

Video

Presented in a full frame ratio of 1.33:1 this transfer is about as good as VHS-quality will buy you. In fact it appears like someone taped this film from television and then transfered it. As a result the image is largely flat and lacks any definition and depth, blacks are murky and shadow detail suffers as well. I spotted some minor compression artefacts but realistically I doubt anyone will notice, this is about as average as a transfer can get without sinking into just plain terrible. Much like the other straight-to-DVD release "Scorpius Gigantus" consider this one on the borderline as well.

Audio

This film includes only one audio track, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. This track is about as low-fi as any track I've heard in recent times. For a racing film it was entirely run-of-the-mill, I'm almost convinced that this track was contructed entirely from sound libraries and archives. The dialogue for the most part is clear but lacks a considerable amount of depth.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has included only a collection of start-up trailers (which can be skipped by pressing the Menu button on your remote):
- Dinocroc which runs for 30 seconds.
- The Roger Corman Collection which runs for 1 minute 29 seconds.
- Apocalypto which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.
- An anti-piracy promo spot which runs for 47 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D- Video: D Audio: C- Extras: F Overall: E+

 


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