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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Road Dogz (2000)

"I just wish life were easier."
- Danny (Jacob Vargas)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 04, 2002

Stars: Jacob Vargas, Clifton Collins Jr., Greg Serano
Other Stars: Lobo Sebastian, Priscilla Garita, Emilio Rivera, Yelba Osorio
Director: Alfredo Ramos

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive language, strong violence, some sexuality and drug content
Run Time: 01h:35m:33s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 012236122005
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ D+BB- C+

DVD Review

In the tradition of Boyz N' The Hood and Blood In, Blood Out, Alfredo Ramos' directorial debut Road Dogz offers yet another glimpse into a tough, gang-infested neighborhood, in this case the largely hispanic East LA area. Ramos, who also wrote the script, treads a lot of the same ground that John Singleton did, only more predictably, and I guess it's a sad state of affairs when the plot of an entire film can be visualized just by watching the first five minutes.

This is the story of three close friends growing up in a gritty neighborhood where family pride is at odds with gang violence and drugs. Danny (Jacob Vargas) and Alfonso (Greg Serano) are the "good" pair, struggling to rise above the poverty to make something of themselves. Wiry pal Raymo (Clifton Collins Jr.) is the guy looking for the quick buck, and when he hooks up with a violent drug dealer named Gramps (Lobo Sebastian) the dynamic between the three friends is permanently altered. Danny and Alfonso do their best to get Raymo on the right path, all the while dealing with their own personal problems, which consists primarily of girls and jobs.

Ramos introduces an ex-con named Big Joe (Emilio Rivera), a neighborhood legend just released from prison, and he becomes a source of inspiration and motivation, on different levels, for Danny, Alfonso and Raymo. Big Joe is like a cross between coach and spiritual mentor, and his presence becomes more of a metaphor for the boys collective struggles.

Dialogue is peppered with plenty of "Hey, dog" and "Hey, holmes", and I guess it is supposed to be street accurate, but it becomes glaringly distracting after a time. If you played a drinking game where you had to do a shot of tequila every time someone said "dog" or "holmes", you would be wildly drunk in about ten minutes.

Ultimately, it seems that Ramos was trying to create one of those dreaded "message" films, where life lessons aren't always pretty, but the characters eventually learn things the hard way. I don't fault him that concept, it's just that the message here is so obvious that the entire story seem to take forever to reach its redemptive conclusion.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Road Dogz is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, and it is a fairly clean, crisp print. Colors are rendered nicely, and sharpness and detail is more than adequate.

No complaints.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Why two audio tracks? Beats me, considering both are practically identical. The DD5.1 and 2.0 surround tracks keep the action up front, and bypass the rears almost altogether. Road Dogz is largely a talkie, and for that dialogue is clear, but there's not much else to draw in the viewer. Minimal imaging effects, and the overall soundstage is a bit flat.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Director Alfredo Ramos and Jacob Vargas (Danny) contribute a full-length, scene-specific commentary that is talkative and friendly, if not relatively unenlightening. Ramos discusses the character origins, and how he wanted to keep the film "Chicano-centric" and truthful. Both Ramos and Vargas repeatedly mention how Road Dogz paints a realistic look at life in East LA, especially in the dialogue department. There is very little dead space on the track, as these two guys keep the chatter going at a steady clip.

Road Dogz: Behind-The-Scenes (08m:32s) is a quick little puff piece featuring on-set interviews with the three principle actors, intercut with location shooting. Dull and fluffy.

A trailer, 20 chapters, filmographies and subtitles (English and Spanish) complete the extras.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

I didn't find anything to really enjoy about this film, though I do suppose the intended gritty "message" of hope might be uplifting for some. Stock characters and a predictable dramatic climax give Road Dogz very little to offer in the way of passable entertainment, and the subtle preachings about finding a way out of a bad situation are sadly one-dimensional and seem forced.


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