Monday, June 13, 2011

Perhaps the best feature film centering on car theft: Spike Lee's "New Jersey Drive"

The connection between violence and auto theft was brought home to the viewer in Spike Lee's 1994 "New Jersey Drive."[1] Without doubt, this film is by far the most emotionally powerful and realistic of all 20th century films that center on the topic of auto theft. At the opening viewers are introduced to the central figure in the story, Newark car thief Jason Petty (Sharron Corley), one of a large group of aimless young African-Americans who steal cars, in the process making Newark, New Jersey the car theft capital of America. They do it to "put on a show," as it "didn't matter what the car" was. As it turns out it is a struggle between young car thieves and the Newark police that escalates into a deadly war. Lt. Emil Roscoe's (Saul Stein) auto theft squad brutalizes the young thieves at every opportunity, and excessive force only acerbates this volatile situation. The power of this movie goes beyond characterization of auto theft in a major American city; however, a complex picture of hopeless, despair, social disintegration, racism, hate, and comradeship quickly emerges.

[1] "New Jersey Drive," 1994, DVD 2005, Universal Studios.

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