We were concerned that Judge Dennis Prince had developed a serious case of irritable bowel syndrome, but in the end, we realized it was just bad Gas.
"A full-service comedy!"
Hmmm…seems to me this pump is out of order.
Although it would like to portray itself as something of an edgy, Southern-California-hip-hop happening, 2004's Gas is just barely running on fumes. Actually, it's not a particularly bad film, it's just not the baaaaad film it aspires to be. It's all about two estranged brothers, Damien (Flex Alexander) and Karl (Tyson Beckford), who have to put aside their differences when their father dies. At the reading of the will, the perpetually combative brothers learn they'll need to work side by side at the family gas station for a full year before they'll be eligible to become rightful owners of the establishment and then legally sell it if they choose. What ensues is a series of comedic clashes and confrontations as Damien, a self-professed businessman, finds he's at odds with the community culture of the station while Karl is preoccupied with hangin' with his homies in hopes of cutting a rap music CD.
More goes on, including a clash with the local Asian developer, who covets the property the gas station occupies and goes so far as to lure Damien into a damning contract when the brother and his family are desperately in need. And if this all sort of sounds like an episode of Good Times, What's Happening?, and The Jeffersons rolled in one, you're right. The story is classic sitcom material, and it's actually somewhat enjoyable. It strikes a flat note when it attempts to paint itself as a sometimes-gritty, R-rated ethnic comedy along the lines of Cookout or Soul Food; it's neither. And what we get, then, is a volley of unnecessary F-bombs and N-words mixed in with a few token (tokin'?) scenes of drug use. In the end, it turns to a weird sort of bastardization of The Partridge Family episode "Soul Club," featuring Richard Pryor, Louis Gossett, Jr., and a poorly lip-synched performance atop a makeshift stage. Eccch!
As for the acting, it's reasonably decent with nobody really standing out. You likely won't recognize too many folks assembled here, save for Sticky Fingaz as the dope-dealing Craig and long-time Barney Miller alumnus Steve Landesberg in a strange cameo. Again, you'll likely conjure plenty of TV drama and sitcom parallels because that's really what this picture is made up of. Too bad director Henry Chan and scriptwriters Michael Haran and Mark Swinton didn't realize it…or 'fess up to it. Not a bad picture, but certainly not baaaaaad.
Gas is rather indifferently metered out to us in this self-serve, stripped-down DVD from Fox that's sure to give your DVD player knocks and pings. The picture quality is decent enough, I suppose, looking slightly better in the 1.78:1 widescreen version than in the full-screen rendition lurking on Side B of this flipper. The color levels are generally decent, yet the production design itself really ambushes the technical proceedings thanks to several scenes of (intentional?) over-exposure, color muting, and graininess. I frequently wondered if I accidentally backed up to the diesel pump. The audio mix is where this one really blows its audition. The 5.1 track certainly works to engage all channels of your sound system, yet the poor balancing of the persistent hip-hop and rap ditties usually obscures the dialogue and left me wanting to yell at someone to turn that damn crap down so I could hear what the hell the actors were saying. As I said before, this is a self-serve disc, so don't expect to find any extras on board here.
In the end, Gas will give you a bit of enjoyment if you don't expect too much from it. You'll probably increase your chances of liking it if you decide to rent it rather than purchase it. Honestly, I can't see taking this for another spin around the block.
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